A good story will help caterers command premium prices for some of the world's most exotic coffees. Ian Boughton checks out the tales.
The most profitable way to sell anything is to be able to tell a story about it that grips the attention of the customer. Many exotic, rare, and specialist coffees have stories behind them that will astonish the average coffee drinker and go a long way to support an extremely good price in the cup.
The curious thing about exotic coffee is that while the buying price can be high, the initial investment can be relatively low. Typically, says Guy Wilmot, the manager of Sea Island Coffee in London, beverage managers can start an "exotic coffee" week with half a kilo, to see if it flies.
"They can have their classic house coffee, and then beside it they can have a rock star coffee - and any good supplier will bend over backwards to prove that the consumer will vote for it," he says.
Kingdom of Tonga Coffee from Sea Island Coffees, London
This is a royal coffee - indeed, some of it comes from the King's own plantation. It is regarded as both exotic and scarce, with only 1,500 kilos available from any crop. As a sign of its purity, the coffee bears a Royal Seal by Appointment to His Majesty, and the King takes packages of it on his travels as a gift to other heads of state.
Hawaii Kona Greenwell Estate Private Reserve, from Sea Island Coffees, London
This took a Great Taste award last year and the judges said it was "complex and interesting with hints of dark chocolate and an almost indescribable aroma of the sea, rounded with brightness". It is a full-bodied breakfast coffee, says Sea Island's manager, Guy Wilmot.
La Perla Estate, from El Quiche, Northern Guatemala, roasted by James Gourmet Coffee of Ross-on-Wye
They create a great coffee in difficult conditions - La Perla has a ridiculously high rainfall, and every night during the harvesting season, the drying coffee has to be manually taken into drying huts to avoid the dewy moisture when the temperature goes down.
Tanzania Footprint from the Blackburn Estate, Mount Oldeani, roasted by Grumpy Mule of Meltham, Yorkshire
The farm, says the roaster, is "run by a German who is a very unusual employer - most farmers pay their pickers on piecework, according to the quantity they pick, while he pays his workers a set amount, and shows them how to only pick the right, ripe, best beans."
Monsooned Malabar, India, from Andronicas of London
A unique coffee created by mistake in the days of the Raj on the west coast of India when some beans were accidentally exposed to the monsoon winds. When it was discovered that European consumers liked the taste, the growers devised a way of repeating the mistake and now deliberately leave the beans out to the elements.
Kopi Luwak, Indonesia, from Andronicas of London
The story says that the Indonesian civet, a cat-like creature, eats ripe coffee cherries, digests the cherry, and excretes the bean which has gained a characteristic from the process - the same happens with monkeys in India and the South American Jacu bird. The reality is that the civet cat picks only perfectly ripe cherries! (Image by Tigrou Meow)
Santa Cruz Estate Coffee, Galápagos Islands, from Sea Island Coffees, London
It is produced by 130-year-old plants that were planted not long after Darwin visited the islands and decided to write On the Origin of Species. It has a unique, strong aroma of raisins - the brewed result is a pleasant and soft cup, quite gentle, with almost a tea-like effect.
Panama Diamond Mountain, Western Panama, roasted by Grumpy Mule of Meltham, Yorkshire
This is a very well-known farm among quality coffee roasters. The best Central American coffees suit the British palate for well-rounded all-day coffees and Grumpy Mule uses four different qualities and the very best, says the roaster, is "quite stratospheric" in price.
Lake Tana Coffee, Ethiopia, from Sea Island Coffees, London
According to legend, Kaldi the goatherd noticed his goats acting in a hyperactive way after eating a particular fruit, which he took to the local religious men who brewed it and sat up talking all night. Nowadays, the coffee brings in money allowing the monks to repair the monastery.
Finca La Corcovada, Canary Islands, from Sea Island Coffees, London
This very rare coffee is available in only a very few bags a year, with the added curiosity that it bucks the principle that coffee only grows within the tropics - it is the only coffee grown within the European Union. It is produced in a tiny amount by Juan and his family in a valley which enjoys a unique microclimate.
Jamaica Blue Mountain from the Clifton Mount Estate. Blue Mountain Coffee (Europe), London Blue Mountain is the world's most famous high-class coffee. The Japanese covet it and the high price inspires fakes and counterfeits in some countries, which is why it can only be exported under certificate.
Skybury Plantation Extra Fancy, Australia, from Andronicas of LondonThere is a distinct target for this coffee, which is grown on the east coast of Australia, fairly near the south tip of the tropics. "It certainly interests the Australians," says Andrew Knight, of Andronicas. "Even visitors from Australia often do not know that their own coffee exists."
Andronicas 020 7729 4411
[Grumpy Mule](http://www.grumpymule.co.uk) 01484 855500
[James Gourmet Coffee](http://www.jamesgourmetcoffee.com) 0870 787 0233
[Sea Island Coffee020 7584 7545