Every so often, we hear about some restaurant that’s serving an obscenely expensive dish for no other reason than to get some publicity. If you want to drop $450 on a pizza topped with lobster and caviar, you’re more than welcome to. But these hodgepodges (which also usually involve things like gold leaf, which is actually not that expensive) are nothing but a bunch of expensive things thrown together, and while they may be expensive dishes, they’re not expensive individual food items. Which raises the question: What are the most expensive foods on earth?
In Japan (especially the island of Hokkaido), fruit isn’t just something that’s sold at the corner store; perfect specimens are also sold at high-end luxury stores for massive price tags. Densuke black watermelons have sold for more than $6,000, two Yubari King melons (hailed by some as the most delicious on earth) sold in 2008 for $22,872, and another pair of melons from the Hokkaido city of Yubari sold at wholesale for $27,240 in 2016.
The balsamic vinegar you buy in the supermarket isn’t real balsamic vinegar. The real stuff is made in Modena, Italy, by reducing pressed trebbiano and lambrusco grapes until they form a thick syrup, then aging it for a minimum of 12 years in progressively smaller casks made of different woods. The end result is rich, syrupy, sweet, sour, and slightly woodsy. A tiny bottle of the really good stuff (aged for more than 100 years) can easily cost more than $200.
We should be thankful that a little saffron goes a long way, because it’s the most expensive spice in the world; only three of these tiny little threads grow on each of the crocuses that they’re harvested from, and a gram, which contains 200 to 300 threads, can sell for anywhere from $6 to $9, usually around $70 per ounce.
In order to make the world’s most expensive coffee, whole coffee cherries must first be eaten by cute cat-like creatures in Sumatra, Java, and Bali called Asian palm civets. By the time the beans come out the other end, they’ve been partially digested, so they have shorter peptide chains and more free amino acids. The beans are then cleaned, roasted, and brewed. Being run through a cat’s digestive tract supposedly makes the coffee taste better, but we’re not planning on testing it for ourselves. Due to the product’s rarity, if you can find a cup, you can expect to pay upwards of $90 for it.
Da Hong Pao tea, a dark oolong tea from China’s Wuyi Mountains, is the world’s most expensive and venerated tea. According to ancient lore, a certain type of tea cured the mother of a Ming dynasty emperor, so he had the tea bushes covered in red robes to preserve them. Several of these bushes are still producing tea leaves today, and it sells for more than $1 million per kilogram.
Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market is where some of the world’s most expensive, highest-quality seafood is auctioned off, and no fish costs more than the bluefin tuna, which is sadly endangered. The most expensive tuna ever sold in the market (or on earth, for that matter) was sold in January 2013, when a 222-kilogram bluefin sold for $1.8 million.
These ugly little lumps of fungus might look funny, but when shaved over pasta or eggs, the Alba white truffle is stunningly delicious. They’re notoriously difficult to come by and are in high demand, resulting in a shockingly high price tag, usually around $2,000 per pound. In 2014, a 4.16-pound white truffle sold for $61,250!
Caviar in any form is going to be expensive. Nowadays you can find it in supermarkets, but even there it’s out of most people’s price ranges. Most “real” sturgeon caviar sells for well over $100 per ounce, but the most expensive caviar on earth is called Almas caviar. The older a sturgeon is, the more valuable its caviar, and these sturgeons are the oldest ones around. It’s not always available, but when it is, a kilo can easily sell for $10,000.
Grown off the West Coast of Australia, Coffin Bay king oysters are definitely not your average oyster: They grow for six years instead of the usual 18 months, and they have up to 10 times more meat than the average oyster. If you want to sample one, you’ll need to travel to Australia (or a few select places in the EU and Asia), and expect to shell out $100 AUS, or about $73.95, for each one.
The most high-end beef in the world, Kobe is bred in Japan’s Hyogo prefecture, and the Tajima cattle are famously given daily massages, fed beer, and live a life of ultimate luxury. The resulting meat is extremely well-marbled with fat that’s healthier than usual, and it’s tender, melt-in-your-mouth, and extremely luxurious. Unfortunately Kobe beef is also very expensive: It’s only available at a handful of restaurants in the U.S., and at SW Steakhouse in Las Vegas a four-ounce serving sells for $220.