US consumers pay eye-popping prices for a cup of coffee

Global Business

It wasn’t that long ago that a cup of coffee was a low-priced way to get a caffeine fix in the morning. But Starbucks changed all of that with its pricier brews.

Now, we are in a so-called “third wave” in coffee where consumers are looking for farm-to-table coffee with unique origins and extraordinary taste. In exchange, they’re often willing to pay exorbitant prices.

CGTN America’s Karina Huber has more.

Opening in 1907, the Porto Rico Importing Company is one of the oldest coffee roasters in New York City.

Its most expensive bean is the Jamaican Blue Mountain that goes for 99 dollars a pound. But it once sold a variety called “Kopi Luwak” for $400 a pound.

In The Bucket List, actor Jack Nicholson plays billionaire Edward Cole, who loved Kopi Luwak, but didn’t know where the coffee came from.The so-called “cat-poop coffee” became a worldwide hit.

“It was like – everyone wanted the cat coffee – and I had international customers – I had people from China and Japan coming and buying ten pounds at a time and bringing it home with them as gifts,” Peter Longo, co-owner of Porto Rico Importing Company said. Longo said the civet coffee trend was driven by those wanting to impress, not connoisseurs.

But coffee lovers are increasingly willing to pay a lot more for a cup of joe than in the past.

At the Michelin-rated 11 Madison Square Park in New York, diners pay $48 for a ten-ounce brew of Wush Wush, a rare variety from Colombia. The restaurant says it gets ten requests a day for the coffee prepared table-side. Extraction Lab in Brooklyn brews a Panamanian Geisha for $18 a cup – when it can get its hands on the beans. The coffee shop has trouble keeping up with demand.

“We usually try to announce it on our social media and that kind of thing and we always sell out of it. It’s a great coffee. People are really excited to try it,” Meredith Enzbigilis, manager of Extraction Lab said.

“This is about people getting what they want – the most extraordinary coffee -which we put on par with the finest wine or the finest spirit,” Don Holly, director of technical services of Rhino Foods and a coffee expert, said.

Extraction lab says it buys its Geisha beans directly from a farm in Panama. Experts says premium coffees are more likely to be bought at source or at auction than non-premium coffees and that’s good for farmers.

“Farmers are now getting for their best coffee much higher prices – directly than they ever were in the commodity exchanges,” Holly said.

And those high prices are getting passed on to consumers. Out in California this month, a special batch of Geisha will get ground into coffee sold for an eye-popping 55 dollars a cup.