Lots of us only ask one question when we head to the grocery store: what's on sale? (At least that's what I do.) If you're flush with cash, though, even buying mundane staple foods can turn into an exercise in conspicuous consumption. Let's take a look at a few super pricey pantry mainstays that will set you back a bit more than the store brands.
1. Milk Your Wallet for All It's Worth
Should you find yourself stressed out in Japan and in desperate need of a glass of milk, Nakazawa Foods has just the thing for you. In 2007 the company introduced Adult Milk, a special formulation of the white stuff that supposedly helps relieve stress. The (cash) cows that produce the product are milked once a week at dawn, which is allegedly the peak time for melatonin production in cattle. This carefully timed milking results in a product that has up to four times as much of the stress-relieving hormone as regular milk. The price tag is decidedly less soothing, though: over $40 for a quart.
2. Don't Skimp on the Olive Oil
What to do if your wallet is dangerously full and you want to drizzle olive oil on some bread? Order a bottle of Lambda. The extra virgin olive oil bills itself as "the most expensive olive oil in the world," and it retails for around $50 for a 500 ml bottle. According to the oil's maker, Speiron Co., its hand-picked olives are cold-pressed within eight hours of being picked from trees in Crete. The unfiltered finished product supposedly boasts an intensely fruity flavor and a very low acidity.
3. Sweetness Comes at a Price
Lambda made international news when famed London department store Harrods started offering the oil, but its shelfmate Life Mel Honey is no slouch, either. The honey, which goes for over $80 per 120g jar, is made in Israel by bees that are fed a strict diet of herbs that includes ginseng and Echinacea. It's more than just an expensive trend, though. The honey's makers tout it as the only honey that has been demonstrated in a clinical study to alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy. (Scientists later questioned the validity of these claims due to the tiny size of the clinical study.) Still, customers ranging from chemo patients to celebrities like Sienna Miller have snapped up the supposedly health-affirming honey.
4. Enjoy Your Coffee After a Weasel Does
Sure, the cup of joe you sip every morning wakes you up, but has it ever seen the inside of a weasel's stomach? If you're lucky enough to have an authentic mug of kopi luwak, it has. This Southeast Asian delicacy, which Miss Cellania mentioned last month in her round-up of creative uses for poop, is just like normal coffee, only it passes through the digestive tract of the Asian palm civet, a weasel-like critter, before it ever sees the inside of a pot. The result is a full-bodied coffee with little bitterness that can fetch anywhere from $100 a cup to $600 a pound.
Sure, it sounds gross, but kopi luwak devotees swear by the stuff. Farmed civets are fed fresh coffee berries, which they devour for their pulpy fruit, and the beans come out the other end a day or two later. During their stay in the civets' bellies, the beans interact with digestive enzymes that break down their protein structures and change their flavors. After the civet defecates the beans, farmers wash, dry, and roast them to make the world's priciest coffee. [Image by Wie146.]
5. Masa Super Premium: No Weak Cup of Tea
Just because you've sworn off coffee in favor of green tea doesn't mean that you have to keep your wallet closed. In fact, there's a green tea out there that makes kopi luwak look downright frugal. Last December, Japanese manufacturer Royal Blue Tea introduced a new product called Masa Super Premium. The bottled tea was made from rare handpicked leaves from Shizuoka Prefecture that were then infused for three days. The resulting liquid was poured into 750 ml wine bottles that were available for a cool $2,500 apiece.
6. Water with a Side of Bling
If tap water just isn't doing it for you anymore, you can pick up a bottle of Bling H20. The trendy bottled water comes from a spring in Tennessee and undergoes a nine-step purification process that involves filtration and an ozone treatment. It's then poured into a 750 ml frosted-glass bottle adorned with Swarovski crystals. Want a bottle? It will set you back at least $40.
Of course, that's fairly inexpensive compared to a bottle of Hawaii Deep Marine's Kona Nigari seawater, a concentrate that fetches $33.50 for a two-ounce bottle. The water, which comes from 2000 feet beneath the surface off of Hawaii's coast, is prized in Japan as a dietary supplement that reduces stress, aids weight loss, and eases digestion. A 2004 USA Today story reported that the company was sending 80,000 of the two-ounce bottles to Japan each day.
7. No Small Potatoes
Think it's impossible to go broke eating potatoes? Think again. The French La Bonnotte potato can set you back over $300 a pound, which could lead to some awfully pricey French fries. The potato is harvested only during the first week of May on the French island of Noirmoutier and is so fragile that it has to be pulled up by hand. (This isn't the hardiest of plants; it almost went extinct between the World Wars and needs to be fertilized with seaweed.) Some years the yield is as low as 20,000 kilograms, which further drives up prices for the coveted tuber, which is noted for its slightly salty, lemony flavor.