Note from Margaret: This is a guest post from Zach Parkes, the brains behind the site Try New Coffee. All opinions expressed are his own and are not necessarily endorsed by me (though in reading this post, I noted that we do share a lot of the same opinions!). Thanks for writing this guest post, Zach!
The 10 Most Prestigious Coffees in the World
I have made an attempt to rank these beans by reputation, in an unbiased manner.
There is of course, no official scale by which to measure the prestige of coffee… so feel free to disagree and express your outrage.
I’ve also included my personal thoughts on each coffee, as I feel that some of the most renowned beans are a tad overrated, and that some of the lower ranks deserve more credit!
Alright now that my makeshift disclaimer is out of the way, let’s dig into the 10 most prestigious coffees in the world.
10. Costa Rican Tarrazu
The reputation of Costa Rican coffee has been trending upwards in recent years. Single origin beans from Tarrazu are the most highly reputed.
These beans give of an intensely sweet aroma that is reminiscent of brown sugar. The coffee is packed with notes of tropical and citrus fruits. A lively, bright acidity, characteristic of many Central American coffees adds to the complexity. Each Tarrazu coffee that I’ve had the pleasure of trying has had a sweet, sustained finish.
This is a coffee that I’ve found myself coming back to a lot recently. Although I do believe that Tarrazu coffee is starting to get the recognition that it deserves, it still has a ways to go before it is unanimously included in everyone’s lists!
9. Guatemala Antigua
I have had the distinct pleasure of sampling this coffee while in Antigua, Guatemala several years ago. There’s something special about drinking coffee in its origin. Maybe it’s the freshness factor, the beautiful surrounding scenery, or perhaps it’s just the novelty factor. One way or another, it’s a special experience.
You can expect Guatemalan coffee to be rich and complex. Citrus, nutty and chocolate notes are typical, and a bright, tangy acidity really stands out.
This is another Central American bean that is consistently in my rotation. I find that Guatemalan Antigua coffee gets its due credit for the most part.
8. Indonesian Sumatra Mandheling
Indonesia consists of a series of islands that offer variable coffee growing conditions. The islands of Sumatra, Sulawesi, Java and Bali all produce great coffee. The best? Very tough call, but I have to go with Sumatra Mandheling.
Sumatra Mandheling beans have a wonderfully exotic aroma, and produce a cup of coffee that is rich and earthy. Notes of chocolate and spice are also prominent. Sumatra coffee is naturally low in acid, making it easier on the stomach than most other highly prestigious beans.
I’ve grown to really love this coffee, but I definitely didn’t the first time that I tried it. It may take a well-developed palate to truly appreciate this one, so more experienced coffee drinkers tend to enjoy it more.
7. Yemeni Mocha
Yemen has a long and complicated coffee history. Recent years have seen a drastic decrease in coffee production due to an ongoing civil war. The depleted supply of Yemeni coffee leads to higher prices for consumers. That being said, the demand is still there. Why? It’s simple really, Yemeni coffee is really good.
In this case, Mocha doesn’t refer to that commercial beverage loaded with chocolate. Mocha is instead a reference to the major port in Yemen that coffee has historically been shipped from.
You can expect Yemeni coffee to have an exotic aroma and rich, complex taste. A wine-toned acidity and some earthy character are typical. Notes of fruit, chocolate and hints of spice are also common.
Yemeni coffee can be somewhat hard to come by, and because of this, it’s rather pricey. I do enjoy Mocha coffee quite a lot, but it’s a little too expensive to buy consistently. It’s definitely worth splurging on every now and then to support the Yemeni coffee industry.
6. Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
Ethiopia is considered by most to be the birthplace of coffee, and most would agree that it produces some of the best beans in the world. Although there are several great options to choose from, I’d put Ethiopian Yirgacheffe above all else. Don’t worry about trying to pronounce Yirgacheffe, people will know what you mean.
This coffee is complex, frequently offering notes of fruit and wine, and a pleasantly bright bite. I like to compare this coffee to a fine wine; it’s luxurious, delicious… and you know… it has notes of wine.
This has been a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember. I think the vast majority of coffee drinkers would have to agree that Yirgacheffe deserves a mention in the best coffee in the world argument.
5. Tanzanian Peaberry
Here’s another highly regarded African bean, this time from Tanzania.
Tanzanian Peaberry beans make for a rich, full-bodied cup of coffee with a wine-toned acidity. Notes of fruit and wine are on display in a highly concentrated fashion. This coffee single handedly made me a believer in the highly debated peaberry dogma.
To me, this is as good as it gets. If I were forced to pick one single favorite coffee, I think it would be Tanzanian peaberry. But hey, that’s just my personal preference, nothing against your favorite!
4. Kenya AA
There is certainly no shortage of high quality African coffees! Here’s another one, this time from Kenya.
These beans are rich and sweet, with a strong floral aroma. A citric acidity and fruity sweetness are among the many notable aspects of this coffee. There is a lot going on in a cup of Kenya AA coffee, you’ll probably want a few (or 10) cups to make a proper assessment!
This is another one of my all-time favorite coffees. I’d put Kenyan coffee up there with the likes of Hawaiian Kona, and you can enjoy it without breaking the bank!
3. Kopi Luwak
This is another coffee that is native to Indonesia, and easily the most controversial coffee on the planet. If you didn’t know, Kopi Luwak coffee is made using beans that have been digested and excreted by a wild palm civet.
I had been aware of this bizarre coffee option for a long time before I actually tried it. I had been avoiding it due to animal cruelty allegations related to civet farming. While in Indonesia, after being convinced that only wild wild civet droppings were used in the creation of this particular cup, I obliged.
I’ve got to say, it was pretty good. Not good enough to warrant the cost, but the price is more about the novelty I think. Overall, I can’t say that I would have it again, or that I would recommend it. It’s just too difficult to overlook ethical considerations and assess the legitimacy of a product like this. Also, Indonesia has so many other great options to choose from, I’d rather avoid the controversy and the stress to my wallet.
2. Jamaican Blue Mountain
A lot of people consider these beans to be the best in the world, and unfortunately, their price reflects this!
You can expect this coffee to be silky smooth & creamy with rich notes of chocolate. This is definitely not an everyday coffee, but every coffee drinker should experience it at least once.
At the risk of upsetting a lot of people, I’ll say it. I think Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is overrated. It’s definitely worth trying, but in my opinion, you can get a lot more for your money. If you’re determined to splurge big time, I think Kona coffee is the better option.
1. Hawaiian Kona
Similarly to Jamaican Blue Mountain, Hawaiian Kona is quite expensive due to its pristine reputation. This is another one that every coffee connoisseur needs to try at some point.
Kona coffee is known to be smooth and mild. It can contain a variety of notes, including fruit, wine, chocolate, nuts and spices. A typically mild acidity compliments a fruity or sugary sweetness, leading to a very well balanced cup.
But is Kona coffee worth the high price? It’s debatable. I do really enjoy Kona beans, but due to the price, this one is reserved for special occasions only. As my coffee passion is no secret, Kona coffee has become a go-to gift that friends and family get for me. No complaints about that, whatsoever!
Hawaiian Kona and Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee are undoubtedly the most prestigious coffees in the world, although Kopi Luwak may have them beaten in the buzz department.
All things considered, I’d put a high quality African coffee ahead of both Kona and Jamaican coffee, (sue me). That is to say, I think that Tanzanian Peaberry, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and Kenya AA coffee are among the best coffees in the world, and they’re also affordable.
This was much more difficult than I had anticipated… I feel terrible about some of the great coffees that I had to leave out. I’ll get to work on a formal apology to Nicaragua, Colombia and Peru.
Luckily, there’s no need to limit yourself to just 10 types of beans! There will always be new coffees to try, and I’m more than happy to welcome any newcomer to the list!
What do you think of these picks? Do you feel that I’ve snubbed your favorite coffee? Change my mind!
About the author: Zach Parkes
Zach is passionate about travel, music, and coffee! He spends his time exploring the planet, attempting to write music, and trying new coffees from around the world. He likes to blather on about everything related to coffee at Try New Coffee!