Coffee lovers fork out top dollar to taste 'world's best bean'

There's still some HR61 for sale, if you're prepared to fork out $30 for a coffee.
There's still some HR61 for sale, if you're prepared to fork out $30 for a coffee. Photo: Ken Irwin

How far can Melbourne’s coffee obsession go? We haven’t seen anything yet if the number of people prepared to pay top dollar for their caffeine fix is any guide.

All up 60 people paid $100 to taste a coffee spruiked as the ‘‘world’s best bean’’ at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo on the weekend. The tasting sessions, run by local coffee roaster Proud Mary, were a sell-out, with 15 people trying the HR61 Colombian coffee varietal in four ‘‘cupping’’ or tasting sessions held at the expo. The $100 fee also bought participants a small 150g jar of the fancied HR61 beans to take home.

Proud Mary owner Nolan Hirte outbid other coffee enthusiasts in March at an auction for the beans, grown on a small farm in Colombia. While the farm has been growing the mystery Arabica varietal for a few years, this year was the first time the farm had produced enough to sell commercially. Hirte bought all 18kg available for about $130 per pound ($285/kg*) and roasted them in Australia.

Hirte said the varietal, which is yet to be identified by coffee experts, had consistently been judged by international coffee judges at tasting sessions as being better than the world’s most highly-sought varietal, the Ethiopian ‘‘gesha’’ beans (now grown in Panama).

‘‘It’s kind of like not knowing for sure if a wine is a merlot or a sauvignon blanc,’’ Hirte said of the mysterious coffee.

If you missed out, don’t fear ... Twenty of the 150g jars remain (at $100 a pop) or the coffee is available by the cup at Proud Mary’s Collingwood cafe today for $30.

Hirte said Proud Mary baristas would be recommending the coffee be brewed in a French press (plunger) or with an Aeropress filter machine.

* Corrected from earlier version of story.