Worth It? Taste-Testing 5 Pricey Cups of Coffee

By Emily Rothschild  |  February 26, 2014

Though the results of our latest coffee survey suggest most people balk at paying more than $3 for their daily fix, the proliferation of high-end coffeehouses throughout New York City suggests otherwise. And at each, you'll typically find some exceptionally pricey cups of joe. Are these superlative concoctions worth the money? We braved the caffeine jitters to find out.

  • The Drink: Lakkris Latte at Budin

    The Price: $10

    The gist: It's no secret that Scandinavia is a pricey place - but we were still shocked to hear about his $10 latte, by far the most expensive you get can in NYC. It's definitely a globe-hopper: the Ethiopian beans are roasted in Norway, and the drink is flavored with Danish licorice syrup and powder. It also comes with a piece of licorice candy, and is served on a silver platter alongside a glass of water. 

    Worth It? We can't lie - this one of the best lattes we've ever tried, the smooth, bold roast was a perfect match with the potent anise flavor and salty finish. Meanwhile, the creamy foam on top, dappled with licorice powder, was addictive enough that we immediately scooped it off the top with a spoon like a kid mauling an Oreo.

  • The Drink: Siphon of Ethiopia Kemgin at Blue Bottle Chelsea

    The Price: $12

    The gist: Hidden up a few stairs at Chelsea’s Blue Bottle is a tiny, Tokyo-style coffee bar where a futuristic contraption called a siphon bar is used to brew a complicated pot of coffee using heat, water and glass globes. After choosing the Ethiopia Kemgin, our barista got to work - using what seemed like a very bright light and water vapor to heat the grounds. It was kind of like watching a hipster Mr. Wizard. We were asked to smell the grounds twice, and the hot drink was presented in a large glass beaker with a delicate glass cup. It was unlike any coffee we’ve ever tried. It was light and more refreshing than a regular cup of coffee, and you could really taste the underlying ginger and tangerine flavors. We were warned against adding any extras like milk or sweetener, as those would only dilute the flavors.

    Worth it? We say yes, because this wasn’t just a cup of coffee; it was an experience - like coffee theater. And since we were advised to sip it, like you would a fine wine, it was more like enjoying a sophisticated, leisurely drink and less like just an ordinary caffeine fix.

  • The Drink: Flavored iced coffee, Laduree SoHo

    The Price: $7

    The gist: Known for its macarons and other French pastries, this new SoHo import also has a respectable coffee menu featuring all the standards. The day we went was an unseasonably warm break from the polar vortex, so we ordered the flavored iced coffee, which came with a choice of cinnamon or mint. After a recommendation from our waitress, we got the mint, and it tasted exactly like a liquid Andes chocolate candy. Flavored with syrup, it needed neither milk nor sweetener and was a decadent start to the day.

    Worth it? Well, this is a place where a tiny cookie costs more than $3, so the coffee pricing fits the bill, especially given the posh surrounds. We say yes given the whole package.

  • The Drink: Guji, Ethiopia pour-over, (they were out of the $7 cup from La Falda, Colombia) at Toby's Estate Coffee

    The Price: $5 

    The gist: Toby’s Estate, an Australian-based coffeehouse with a relatively new locale in the Flatiron District, is a place for serious java drinkers. We sampled the most expensive coffee on that day’s menu, a pour-over coffee made with beans from Guji, Ethiopia (the $7 La Falda, Colombia coffee was sold out).  As the mildly annoyed barista explained to us, pricing of these coffees relates to demand, which explains why the price of this single-origin roast had reached $5. The pour-over method involves brewing an individual cup of coffee by slowly pouring water over the grounds. The resulting drink had an intense coffee flavor that tasted richer and less watered down than your average cup, and maintained its full-bodied flavor even after a splash of milk.

    Worth It? We hemmed and hawed over this one. Was it tastier than your average cup of coffee? Yes. Was it worth the added time and expense? That’s debatable.

  • The Drink: Chemex brew at Stumptown Coffee

    The Price: $5

    The gist: A Chemex is an hourglass-shaped glass coffee brewing carafe that dates back to the 1940s, though it's become a hot item with the coffee geek-set over the past decade. The process is basically the same as a pour-over - the grounds go into a filter before being saturated with hot water - but the special thick paper filter produces an especially clean and bright-tasting cup.  

    Worth It? No. Coffee was nothing special, and tasted acidic.