Wretched Excess Dept: Coffee at $15 Per Cup


coffee nursery at Hacienda la Esmeralda

In Vancouver, a good cup of coffee costs fifteen bucks. "It reminds me of a fine glass of cognac," said customer Borislav Trifonov, as he sat sipping the pricey dark brew at Caffe Artigiano in downtown Vancouver yesterday afternoon. "You detect all kinds of flavours," Mr. Trifonov said. "Flowery," he said was the most apt description.

It is Hacienda la Esmeralda Especial, which snagged the "world's best coffee" title at the Specialty Coffee Association of America's Roasters Guild Cupping Pavilion Competition and got US$ 130 per pound at the wholesale auction. You can take it home from the Caffe Artigiano for C$135 for half a pound.

The growers profess sustainability and fair trade practices: "First comes sustainability of people. Our business practices must always be such that our products will readily sell at a level which will keep everyone (owners and workers) fed, clothed, educated and in good health." however it cannot be classed as Fair Trade, which is applied to co-ops, not private farms.

Nor is it organic. "To not apply adequate mineral fertilizers, I consider a criminal failure of land stewardship. After repeated crops of tobacco were farmed in the southeastern US, the land become mineral depleted, abandoned, ruined, and farming ‘unsustainable’. This sort of error cannot be allowed to repeat itself in the name of ‘organic’ farming." They also appear to use fungicides.

They do use hydroelectricity and wood fired dryers to be self sufficient and sustainable in their energy use.

So is it worth fifteen bucks a cup? Dejan Bozic, general manager of Caffe Artigiano, said the specialty coffee is intended for special occasions - not as a means to fuel up on caffeine. "Lots of people aren't so rich," Mr. Bozic noted. "It's best as a treat, just to make your life better and happier for a few seconds."

TreeHugger might suggest that paying a premium for fair trade, shade grown organic coffee makes sense but that this is ridiculous.

::Hacienda la Esmeralda via ::Globe and Mail

Tags: Coffee | Vancouver | Wretched Excess