How Much is Too Much?

September 24, 2011

Are cows really sacred? Does the emperor really own a new set of clothes? Are the top priced coffees worth the premium they command? I wish I had the answers to these and other burning questions but I do not.  The cow issue I will leave alone. The emperor?  ** SPOILER ALERT** He was not wearing any clothes. That leaves only the final question to ponder over while enjoying a cup of coffee.  Since the superstar coffees today seem to be the Geisha varieties grown in Panama, I will focus there first. 

Lately these Geisha varieties grown in Panama have commanded prices far higher than most coffee available.  We are talking $5 per ounce or more for some of these - before roasting. for perspective, a famous coffee recently sold for $111 per pound of green coffee.  The roasted price is almost double. These are luxury coffees for sure.  Are these worth the price? With luxuries, price is not something you need to stress about - that is why they are called luxuries and not necessities. I love the company of people who chase a passion as far down the rabbit hole as their budget allows. I have enjoyed some of the finest scotches available, smoked some excellent cigars, and eaten in restaurants I would never enter on my own wallet. The neat thing about luxuries is the value is enhanced when shared with someone who appreciates them. 

The problem with these coffees lies in the future, when they are not the flavor of the moment. A good example can be found in Panama when examining the Elida Natural from Klatch Roasting:

"Producer Wilford Lamastus created this lot especially for Klatch Coffee and said "this special lot is better and more carefully picked than those in the 2011 Best of Panama action, which sold for $35 per pound." Pure flavors of light rum with touches of fruit; strawberry, blueberry, blackberry and tones of orange and chocolate. A great body, sweet acidity and well balance." Ken Davids of Coffee Review previously scored Klatch 95 points."

So a more carefully selected coffee than a 95 point version that sold for $35 per pound is rolling around in the bargain bin for a bit over a dollar per ounce today. Don't get me wrong - This is still a gourmet coffee with a price many would still consider on the high side. It also is one that people who home roast liked well enough to clean out the selection of green beans when Klatch made these available over the last couple months.

Will the Geisha's sell for a dollar an ounce next year? Not likely, but if the spotlight turns toward a new region or variety then anything is possible.  Remember too - you can't taste hype in the cup. 



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