Originally Posted by Innersoul1
I figured that this might interest a good lot of you!
From Maclean's Oct 22nd 2007
Is one cup of coffee woth $15?
A Panamanian brew called Esmeralda has brought the coffee-drinking world to its knees
Toronto residents have long been accustomed to emptying their wallets for a gourmet meal or fine glass of wine. But is Canada's most expensive city ready for the $15 cup of coffee? Matthew Lee thinks so. Lee, 29 recently opened Manic Coffee, a cafe on the bustling outskirts of Toronto's Little Italy. To celebrate, on October 19 he'll begin offering up a limited amound of Esmeralda Special-a heady Panamanian brew that's brouight the coffee drinking world to its knees
Can one cup of coffee really be worth $15? "All I can say is yes," Lee says ernestly. "It is the most remarkable coffee I've ever had in my life." Fragrant, floral, and tea-like, with notes of jasmine and bergamot-these are some of the qualities connoisseurs ascribe to Esmeralda. Others seem to get tongrue ties at the very thought of it. "It's amazing. That's all I can say," gushes Aaron Webb, a raoster at Discover Coffee in Victoria, B.C. And Lee won't just be offering standard esmeralda in his cafe. He's bringing in the legendary Esmeralda action lot (a careful selection of the farm's very best beans)-in other words, the creme de la creme of coffee.
Lee and Webb aren't alone in their enthusiasm; the hype has been deafening. Esemeralda fist caught the attention of coffee lovers in 2004- the year a coffee tree known as the geisha was discovered on Hacienda la Esmeralda in lush western Panama. As it produced less than a typical coffee plant, the geisha is rarely cultivated on Central American farms. But adter owners sampled beans from the geisha tree-originally from ethiopia, it flourishes in Panama's high altitues-they knew they had a winner. "It's a flavour that's never been found in the America's before," says marketing director rachel Peterson.
That yearm the auction lot sold for a record US$21 a pound at a time when a pound of commercia-grade coffee was going for about 73 cents. It quickly becam " a marketing thing," says mark Prince, senior editor of coffee appreciation site coffeegeek.com. One buyer (Kansas city's The Roasterie) even hired an armoured truck to deliver it, presumably for protection against over caffeinated fanatics.
The award winning beans went on to smash record auction prices for two of the next three years. But this year's crop-rcognized as the best yet- blew the others away. At online auction in May, bidding got so frantic the site temporarily crashed. After eight gruelling hours, the lot sold for a stunning US$130 a pound-over 100 times the price of commercial grade coffee (and roughly 10 times highger than the non-auction Esmeralda Special geisha beans). 49th Parallell Coffee Roasters was one of seven winning bidders, and the only Canadian company, to claim a share od the 500 lb. lot; it roadst the coffee exclusively for Caffe Artigiano in Vancouver.
Since then, Esmeralda hype has reached fever pitch. A Caffe Artigiano press release dubbed it "the world's best cofee, EVER!" Journalists who attended a tasting even touting $15 cup coffee were gifted a half pound bag, which sells in stores for $135. Owner Willie Mounzer has focussed on making Esmeralda "an experience" for customers who order it: a manager personally delivers it on a silver platter. So who's buying? "Anybody with a distinct palate; [people] in the industry; show-offs," says manager Jaoquin Quian.
Within the coffee community, Esmeralda backlash has begun. "It is out of control, in my opinion," Prince says. He suspects some retailers have been "less than crystal" about whether their coffee is auction lot or not-especially confusing since both bear the same name, Esmeralda Special. Prince himslef bought three half pound bags be believed to be acution lot esmeralda, only to find he's been duped. (Non-Auction lot esmeralda sells in cafes for about $5 a cup. Timothy's will be offering half pound bags of non-auction for $17.99 as of mid-November.)
Price's advice to consumers seeking auction-lot beans is to make sure retailers ger specific about what they're selling before forking over the cashe. But, he admits, the average taste buds probably couldn't tell the difference anyway: "they're both fnatastic."
Back at Manic, the auction-lot Esmeralda Special is definitely for real. Lee's bringing in three pinds from Chicago based Inteligentisa Coffee Rosters. It's probably only be enough for 50 cups, he acknowledges, and even witht he $15 price tafe he doesn't expect to make much profit. But it's worth it,he insists. Just don't ask for a paper cup-Lee draws the line at serving esmeralda to go.