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Push to commercialize specialty coffee has Japan buzzing

Despite soaring bean prices, high-grade varieties are becoming more popular

Atsushi Sakao, owner of specialty coffee shop Onibus Coffee, prepares coffee beans in Tokyo. (Getty Images)

TOKYO -- Imagine a drink that retails at $3,500 for 250 grams and is so exclusive that aficionados are elbowing each other to get hold of 10 grams -- enough for a small cup -- even though lower-quality varieties are so cheap they account for billions of cups a day.

Hacienda Esmeralda Elida Geisha ASD Natural coffee, from Panama, is a favorite brew for lovers of high-grade specialty coffees in Asia -- especially in Japan, where high-grade varieties account for 10% of the coffee market, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of Japan. In 2021, the Japanese coffee market was the world's third largest after the U.S. and Germany, with total annual revenues of $3 billion and consumption of 2 kilograms per head.

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