At an auction dubbed the Cup of Excellence, a coffee grower from the town of Copey de Dota in Costa Rica won a record premium for his speciality Geisha beans — 27,000 per cent above the benchmark for the standard arabica variety. “It’s crazy,” Michael Calderon, the 26-year-old son of the farmer who grew the coffee, said in a telephone interview from San Jose, the site of the auction. “We were not expecting these results. The place, the altitude, the soil, the processing and drying of the beans, all have a direct influence on the quality.”
Luis Ricardo Calderon, 60, sold a portion of his beans this week for $300 a pound at the auction co-sponsored in San Jose by the Specialty Coffee Association of Costa Rica. The buyers included Maruyama Coffee in partnership with Sarutahiko Coffee and Yamada Coffee, all of Japan.
That surprising price compares with $1.12 a pound, Thursday’s settlement on ICE Futures U.S. for conventional arabica beans used by retailers including Starbucks Corp. Bumper global crops paced by Brazil, the top grower, drove the standard variety down 12 percent this year. In contrast, demand by java connoisseurs for a premium brew has surged, triggering the astonishing auction bids.
The auction result “reflects the growth at the top end” of the international market with some buyers “willing to pay almost any price for the very rarest and most exceptional coffees,” Peter Giuliano, the chief research officer for the Specialty Coffee Association in Santa Ana, California, said in a phone interview.
The top bean in the Costa Rica auction is believed to have been discovered in the village of Geisha in Ethiopia. The variety has been a frequent winner in world competitions in the past decade.
From his farm 96 kilometers (60 miles) from San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital, Calderon sold 529 pounds for $158,780 and another lot weighing the same at an average of $111 a pound at the auction. The third-generation grower has 70 hectares (173 acres) and plans to use the money on the new crop, including a bit more of the winning variety, the younger Calderon said.
“The price is significant, especially in this environment of low world prices,” Noelia Villalobos, the executive director at the Costa Rican association, said in a phone interview. “The results exceeded by far our expectations. There are other, newer auctions that sell coffee at higher prices, but they include smaller lots, and this auction has been around far longer.”
The Cup of Excellence was established in 1999 by Alliance for Coffee Excellence, based in Portland, Oregon. Auctions are held in several countries, including Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. Last year in Brazil, the top bean fetched $130.20 a pound, the previous record.