Premium Gourmet Coffee

Written by Sarah Provost
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There's coffee, and there's specialty coffee, and then there's premium gourmet coffee. Once upon a time, coffee was just a cuppa joe, but these days it is savored, classified, and reviewed with all the seriousness and arcane vocabulary of appreciation that has long been associated with fine wines. Here are a few of the more exotic types of premium gourmet coffee.

The tiny growing area known as Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii produces a highly prized local strain of arabica beans growing at an unusually low altitude. These beans are entirely hand picked, then wet processed in traditional ways by tiny independent farms near Mauna Loa. In the late 1990s, Kona coffee was so prized--and expensive--that some suppliers packaged other coffees in Kona bags. Even today, true Kona coffee is often blended in with inferior coffees, degrading the cup. To be certain you are getting pure Kona, buy it only from reputable dealers.

Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is still considered a premium gourmet coffee, even though the quality has declined somewhat in recent years. In the early 1800s, Jamaica led the world in coffee production. After WWII, the British colonial government instituted a rigorous certification program, and when Jamaica gained its independence, they continued to use the government mills and traditional wet processing. Since the 1970s, however, new technology has increased the production but decreased the quality of this once famous coffee.

Kopi Luwak, the Ultimate Premium Gourmet Coffee

No discussion of exotic coffees would be complete without mention of Kopi Luwak, the most expensive coffee produced in the world. This coffee from Sumatra is not the result of a particular type of bean, but of the highly unusual means of processing. An animal called a luwak, which is a type of civet cat, eats ripe coffee cherries and excretes the seeds, which are then culled from its droppings. Needless to say, this is a labor-intensive process, which is the primary cause of its extremely high price, about $300 a pound at present. I think I'll stick with Kona.

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