The most expensive foods in the world
Some think a treat is splurging on a chocolate bar while waiting in the grocery store checkout line; others think it’s spending US$35,000 (CA$44,000) on a honeydew melon or buying tea that’s more expensive than gold. Here are 20 of the most expensive foods in the world.
Saffron is extracted from the stigma of the Crocus sativatus flower. Each flower has just three stigmas, and they must be gently harvested by hand. It takes more than 75,000 flowers to harvest one pound (0.45 kg) of saffron.
Da Hong Pao tea
Some varieties are fairly affordable, but aged Da Hong Pao teas are more precious than gold. In fact, by weight this tea sells for 30 times the price of gold. The mineral-rich water in which the tea trees grow gives Da Hong Pao its unique flavour. There are not many of these trees left, which is making this already pricey tea even more expensive.
Noirmoutier, a small island, measuring barely 50 km2, is home to what many describe as the best potatoes in the world. The Bonnotte is a small, round potato with fragile skin that can only be harvested by hand, just 15 days a year. The price can reach up to US$588 (CA$740) per kg, enough to drive up the price of a plate of fries.
Kobe Wagyu beef
Kobe Wagyu cattle are treated with great care. They get regular massages to relax the muscle fibres and drink beer on hot summer days. Some breeders even wash their animals with sake. The ultimate goal is to tenderize the meat and impart a nutty flavour to the fat. Wagyu beef retails for nearly $200 (CA$252) per pound, and prime cuts sell for up to US$300 (CA$377) for a single steak.
Almas caviar comes from a rare species of fish, the albino beluga sturgeon, which swims in Iran’s Caspian Sea. It regularly sells for more than US$30,000 (CA$38,000) per kg, due in part to the rarity of the fish, which must also be between 60 and 100 years old.
Alba’s white truffle
The truffle is a variety of mushroom that grows up to 30 cm underground. It is difficult – some may even say impossible – to grow, which explains its exorbitant price. The most expensive variety is undoubtedly the white truffle that grows near Alba in Italy. In 2019, a kilo could sell for US$4,200 or CA$5,300 (375 euros per 100 grams), but make sure you keep an eye out for counterfeit products!
Kopi luwak coffee
Think the espresso at your local, trendy third-wave coffee shop is too expensive? You haven’t seen anything yet. Kopi luwak coffee sells at US$35 to $100 (CA$44 to $126) per cup. The price may be surprising, but its origin is even more so. Kopi luwak coffee beans are extracted from the feces of the civet, a small Indonesian mammal.
Fugu has to be prepared with great care; one wrong move can prove fatal. Two to ten people die of it every year. The expertise needed to prepare it safely is largely reason for its high price tag. So what is it about this fish’s flavour that some people are willing to die for? Well, as it turns out, it’s pretty… bland.
Would you be willing to pay the 2020 rate of US$2,000 (CA$2,500) for a melon? That would actually be a steal. In 2008, a Densuke watermelon was sold for US$6,100 (CA$7,700). Densuke watermelons are very rare and are grown only on Hokkaido Island.
Pule, made with milk from an endangered species of donkey and produced on a small farm in Serbia, is the world’s most expensive cheese. While a cow can produce 25 to 40 litres of milk per day, a donkey can only produce up to… 300 ml. Since it takes more than 25 L to produce one kg of Pule cheese, it’s easy to understand why it costs US$1,325 (CA$1,700) per kg (US$600 (CA$750) per pound).
Ayam Cemani chicken
Ayam Cemani is an Indonesian variety of chicken that is completely black, from head to tail, that even includes its internal organs. This unique creature has another unusual trait. Ayam Cemani are worth more than US$2,500 (CA$3,100) each.
Edible gold is expensive because… well, it’s gold. It has no flavour or nutritional value, but it does have a brilliant shine. It’s usually added to a dish, like this US$214 (CA$269) grilled cheese or US$500 popcorn, simply to bestow bragging rights about having the most expensive product in the world.
How can ham cost US$485 (CA$610) per kg (US$220 (CA$277) per pound)? Iberian pigs reproduce less often than other varieties, produce less meat, and take longer to mature. To top it all off, these pigs are fed almost exclusively on acorns, which imparts a unique, nutty flavour that many find irresistible.
Yubari King melon
Restauranteurs usually use cantaloupe to fill up their breakfast plates on the cheap. The Yubari King melon, which also comes from the Japanese island of Hokkaido, is an exception. It usually sells for between US$125 (CA$157) and US$200 (CA$252), when not selling at auction for a mind-boggling UA$45,000 (CA$56,600). The price stems from the work farmers have to put into growing them. Farmers can only grow one melon per vine, they need to be massaged daily to concentrate the flavour, and they must be carefully wrapped to protect them from very sunny days.
The prized ingredient in bird’s nest soup is not actually the nest, but rather the the saliva of the bird that holds the nest together. Finding these nests is not easy. Swallows nest in hard-to-reach places, such as on the edge of cliffs and against the walls of caves. What does that mean for us? A simple bowl of soup can cost more than US$100 (CA$126) .
In China, many believe that bird’s nest soup can help cure certain diseases, like cancer.
Prized for their spicy, pine-like flavour, matsutake mushrooms sell for nearly US$2,200 (CA$2,670) per kg (US$1,000 (CA$1,260) per pound). They only grow in red pine forests, an environment that is becoming increasingly rare. If a season is too dry or too hot, the harvest will be small.
By weight, vanilla is worth more than silver ore. Madagascar supplies 80% of the world’s vanilla, a crop that’s difficult to grow, especially in this era of climate change. People who work in vanilla processing plants are searched on their way out to make sure they don’t sneak out with any of these precious pods.
Prized by all foodies, foie gras is, without a doubt, a luxury product. The geese and ducks that provide their liver for this human delicacy mature slowly and eat a lot of food, especially at the end of their life during the fattening phase. Faced with ongoing pressure from animal rights groups, several producers have stopped making foie gras, which has increased the price of this already expensive product.
Valued at approximately US$1,100 (CA$1,400) per kg (US$500 (CA$630) per pound), the moose cheese produced in Bjursholm, Sweden, is one of the most expensive in the world. The farm that produces it has just three domesticated females (since there’s no way anyone would try to milk a wild moose) and can produce 275 kg of cheese each year.
Hand-seeded redcurrant jam
Bar-le-Duc, in France, produces a redcurrant jam that retails for US$235 (CA$296) per kg. The recipe is a closely guarded secret, but we know at least one step of the process. The seeds of each currant are removed manually using a goose feather.