After I wrote about some of the world’s most expensive "ordinary" foods, I was thirsty. So I set about trying to find the world’s most expensive "ordinary" beverages that I could wash all those costly hot dogs and budget-busting brownies down with. I’m pleased to report that those of you with an excessive amount of money to spend on ridiculous things will have plenty of choices when it comes to overly expensive drinks.
Most Expensive Coffee
There’s nothing quite like a high gross-out factor to turn something that shouldn’t even be meant for human consumption into a delicacy. If you’re thinking along the lines of that soup made from those bird-spit nests, you’re on the right track – but the world’s most expensive coffee takes the ewww quotient to a whole new level. Kopi Luwak coffee is made in Indonesia on the islands of Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi (it’s also found in East Timor and in the Philippines, albeit with slightly different names). So far, so good, right? Well, the other name for this coffee is Civet Coffee, after the furry little creature whose digestive tract gives the coffee beans their (ahem) unique flavor. You see, Kopi Luwak coffee is made from coffee berries which have been eaten, digested, and then (ahem again) eliminated by the Asian Palm Civet. You read that right – the world’s most expensive coffee is expensive because it comes from animal dung. The coffee beans inside the coffee berries pass through the animal relatively unscathed (unless, of course, you don’t consider being eaten and shat out "unscathed"), and then some poor soul collects them and washes them before roasting the beans lightly. It’s only a light roast because if the beans were roasted too long they’d lose all the unique flavors they picked up inside the Civet. Which would be a shame? I think? Anyway, this prized coffee sells for upwards of $600 per pound, and some of the cafes around the world that sell it have it priced at roughly $50-100 per cup. I think I’ll pass, thanks.
Most Expensive Bottled Water
Water? On a list of expensive beverages? You might be surprised, because in many parts of the world water is essentially free – but the bottled water industry is big business. And no bottled water exemplifies this more than Bling H20. As the name suggests, this water was initially marketed only to "hand-selected athletes and actors" (presumably because they were among the only ones who could afford it), but now everyone who has more money than brains can buy their own bottle of Bling H20. The bottles themselves are the real extravagance, with their Swarovski crystals, because Bling H20 water comes from decidedly un-glamorous Dandridge, Tennessee. But one 750mL bottle of this most expensive bottled water will cost you $40 (you can splurge on a case for more than $400), and if your local mini-mart doesn’t carry Bling H20 you can always order it directly from the company’s website. I should note that so far as I can tell, the naked woman pictured isn’t included with your order. I know, I know – false advertising and all that. Complain to Bling.
Most Expensive Beer
Enjoying a pint with friends at the corner pub is a time-honored ritual. Beer is the beverage of choice for most travelers, partly because it’s so widely available and partly because it’s usually pretty cheap. But there are actually a few beers in the world that are not only difficult to find, they’re also exceedingly costly. The beautifully-bottled Vielle Bon Secours, which goes for about $80 per pint, is only available in one London bar (called the Bierdrome). Samuel Adams’ Utopias beer comes in copper-colored bottles that are meant to look like the copper kettles used in the brewing process, and a pint of that amber liquid will cost you about $65 (Utopias also has the distinction of having the highest alcohol content of any beer in the world at around 25%). But the most expensive beer in the world as of 2008 is Carlsberg Jacobsen Vintage No. 1 – it’s only on the menu in three Copehnagen restaurants, only 600 bottles of this beer were even created, and it costs nearly $400 for each less-than-a-pint-sized bottle. Which means that if you’re not already in Copenhagen, the cost of this already expensive beer just went up by however much you have to pay to get to one of the restaurants where you can order it.
Most Expensive Cocktail
If a pint is too plebian for you, then you’ll be pleased to know that you can spend an ungodly amount of money on mixed drinks, too – and if you’re used to nights out on the town, you probably already feel like you are paying too much for mixed drinks. As with the most expensive dessert treat in the world, many of the most expensive cocktails rank so highly on the cost meter because there’s something like a giant diamond ring in the bottom of the cocktail glass. But while the gem is technically part of the cost of the drink and therefore qualifies those beverages for a list of costly cocktails, I prefer to focus on the drinks that are actually overly expensive just because of the liquors you’re swallowing. So for me, the most expensive cocktail remains the Trader Vic’s Original Mai Tai at the Merchant Hotel in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In fact, this is the one listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, and it’ll cost you roughly $1,400. Why so expensive? Well, the Merchant Hotel managed to get their hands on an extremely rare bottle of Wray and Nephew rum – it’s one of only six bottles left in the world. Which means that if you want to taste this exclusive Mai Tai, you’d better do it soon. When that bottle’s empty, you’ll be stuck with a plain old Mai Tai (and more money in your pocket). The hotel’s website says that the people who are "lucky enough to sample this cocktail have confirmed that it was worth every penny" – but methinks that getting a taste of this Mai Tai isn’t so much about luck as it is about very deep pockets.
Most Expensive Tea
Tea is second only to coffee as the most popular beverage in the world, and if you know anything about world history you won’t be surprised to find out that there are lots of teas that are kind of on the expensive side. Tea was once used almost like a currency, in much the same way salt and other spices were used – but unlike salt and most spices, the value of some kinds of tea has remained relatively high. Darjeeling tea from India are among the most expensive – it’s even known as the "Queen of Teas" – and it’s widely considered a luxury. Darjeeling can cost thousands per kilo, but many Darjeeling teas are a much more reasonable $12-50/kilo. So the title of the most expensive tea in the world goes to a rare green tea from the Fujian province of China called Tieguanyin tea. It regularly goes for a whopping $3,000 per kilogram, which is $1,500 per pound, which is about $15 per cup. Sip slowly, that’s one cuppa you’ll want to savor.
Most Expensive Wine
Wines routinely go for a pretty penny, from that $85 bottle of Amarone you’re contemplating for a special holiday gift to that a one-of-a-kind bottle of 1787 Chateau Lafite Rothschild which reportedly once belonged to Thomas Jefferson and sold for about $160,000 in 1985. But if you’re talking about really costly wines that are actually available for purchase – and actually still drinkable (which is kind of the point, if you ask me) – then you’re talking about a couple of French wines. Two wine producers in France routinely battle for the top spot on this list, and both of them are probably well out of the reach of most wine drinkers, so I’m going to include them both here. At the moment, the 1998 vintage of Petrus that can cost roughly $1,400 per bottle comes in second, while the most expensive wine in the world is the 1997 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti from Burgundy, France – it fetches just over $1,500 per bottle, and can go for twice that much. Romanée-Conti wines regularly go for more than $1,000 for a bottle, no matter what year they’re from, so it could be that Petrus will be hanging out in the second-place spot on this list for awhile.
About the Author
BootsnAll staff writer Jessica Spiegel, who writes the Italy Travel Guide, would be happy to sample everything on this list of costly cocktails, if only someone else was willing to pick up the tab. She thinks even eyelash-fluttering won’t work in this case, unfortunately.
original photos: Tieguanyin tea photo from this page, Kopi Luwak coffee from here, Bling H20 water from here, Jacobsen Vintage No. 1 beer from this page, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti vineyard from here, and Mai Tai cocktail from here.