Illy Espresso Caffé Machinato, which comes in a distinctive silver tin at a hefty $69 per kilo, was by far the most expensive supermarket coffee, but also the experts’ clear favourite. Fortunately, however, you don’t have to pay the earth for good coffee. Scarborough Fair and República brands are moderately priced, as well as being fair trade and organic, and both rated very well. The bargain buy, however, proved to be a supermarket generic brand, Woolworths Select Espresso Ground Coffee – see What to Buy, for the experts’ comments on these top-rating coffees.
Surprisingly, the coffees made by top-selling brands Lavazza and Vittoria failed to impress. Lavazza Qualita Oro was dismissed by our expert tasters as “horrible”, while Vittoria Oro was “far too bitter, not a nice coffee to drink at all”. Kopi Luwak also failed to impress. This unusual coffee was tested blind alongside the other cheaper coffees, but only rated a middle-of-the-range score.
World’s most expensive coffee
Kopi Luwak is an Indonesian coffee renowned as much for its price tag as its rather bizarre origins. It retails for a heady $1000/kg and is made from coffee berries eaten by the Asian Palm Civet, a cat-sized mammal. The civet digests the flesh of the fruit but the coffee beans inside the berries pass through its gut undigested. They’re collected from the animal’s droppings, washed and lightly roasted. It’s suggested the coffee tastes extra good because the civets are fussy eaters and only choose the most perfect berries. Research at the University of Guelph in Canada found the animal’s digestive juices penetrate the beans and break down proteins that give rise to some of the coffee’s bitter flavours.
We included Mandailing Estate Wild Kopi Luwak in our test for the novelty factor, but our experts, tasting blind, didn’t pick it as anything special (see the table, above). It may be the world’s most expensive coffee, but it’s clearly not always the best-tasting.