The COLOMBIA "El Roble" HR61) which is is $100 dollars a cup
There's still some HR61 for sale, if you're prepared to fork out $30 for a coffee. Photo: Ken Irwin

Jane Holroyd

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.

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World Barista Championships

A "cupping" included a Colombian variety named "El Roble" that sells for $100 dollars a cup, at the World Barista Championships, at the Melbourne Showgrounds. Photo: Ken Irwin

  • A "cupping" included a Colombian variety named "El Roble" that sells for $100 dollars a cup, at the World Barista Championships, at the Melbourne Showgrounds.
  • A coffee enthusiast attends a "cupping" that included a Colombian variety named "El Roble", selling for $100 dollars a cup.
  • Nolan Hirte (C) hosts a "cupping"  with his Colombian variety named "El Roble" that sells for $100 dollars a cup, at the World Barista Championships.
  • Coffee is lined up at the World Barista Championships, at the Melbourne Showgrounds.
  • A "cupping" gets underway at the World Barista Championships, at the Melbourne Showgrounds.
  • Nolan Hirte's Colombian "El Roble" beans make a coffee that sells for $100 dollars a cup.
  • A "cupping" gets underway at the World Barista Championships, at the Melbourne Showgrounds.
  • Nolan Hirte hosts a "cupping" at the World Barista Championships, at the Melbourne Showgrounds.
  • A "cupping" gets underway at the World Barista Championships, at the Melbourne Showgrounds.
  • A coffee enthusiast attends a "cupping" at the World Barista Championships, at the Melbourne Showgrounds.
  • A "cupping" gets underway at the World Barista Championships, at the Melbourne Showgrounds.
  • Nolan Hirte hosts a "cupping" at the World Barista Championships, at the Melbourne Showgrounds.

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.