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‘Enlightened tingle’: Aussie cafe offers $140 cup of coffee

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The Proud Mary cafe in Melbourne offered US$140 cups of coffee made from Black Jaguar beans from Panama./AFP
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Feb 13, 2023 - 10:41 AM

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — At US$140 a pop, one cafe in Melbourne, Australia is serving up no ordinary cup of joe.

Melbourne has long been famed for its coffee culture, with Italian and Greek migrants infusing the city with all things bean and cup since the 1940s.

And for those looking for a next-level experience, one cafe is selling a cup at 50 times the price of a regular flat white or espresso.

The coffee — hailed as one of the world’s finest — is grown in Panama’s Chiriqui region.

Dubbed “Black Jaguar”, the beans came first at the prestigious 2022 Best of Panama auction in the Natural Geisha category, scoring 96.5 out of 100.

They sold for over US$2,000 per pound (450 grams). Only 100 pounds were up for grabs and Australian cafe group Proud Mary snapped up a pound.

“I had an out-of-body, enlightened kind of tingle. It was really clearly a special cup of coffee, taste-wise, character-wise,” said Proud Mary owner Nolan Hirte, who was on the judging panel.

“It was right in your face, so expressive and so clear.

“There’s something about it that’s just ‘wow’.”

The Black Jaguar is the most expensive coffee Proud Mary has ever bought.

They made 22 cups available in Melbourne, and a limited amount was stocked at their cafes in Austin and Portland in the United States.

One connoisseur flew two hours from Sydney to buy the deluxe drop, which is served as a pour-over.

Melbourne is one of the richest cities in one of the richest countries in the world. Even so, US$140 is well above what most people would pay for a cup of coffee.

But cinematographer Jake Reeder, a self-described “massive coffee nerd” who won a taste of the Black Jaguar in a competition, said he would have no qualms paying for it.

The 27-year-old described it as a “moving experience”.

“Anytime you’re on the receiving end of a product that’s received so much love and care and attention,” he said, “it makes you feel something.”

Hirte believes coffee is a snip compared with more expensive drinks such as wine and tea.

“Coffee is far more complex than wine will ever be, but it often gets roasted dark, has sugar added to it and milk poured on it — it can be so much more,” he said.

“And does anyone talk about how expensive tea can be, because it outplays coffee massively.”

“Why are we trying to hold it back, to think coffee can just have a ceiling?”

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