Don’t tell a true coffee connoisseur that nearly every kind of joe tastes the same unless you’re looking for a fight! Plenty of amazing coffee bean varieties have earned themselves a place in the coffee hall of fame thanks to their unique and delicious flavors. And good old Gesha coffee is one of them.
Gesha coffee has a unique history, and it’s considered one of the best — and most expensive — coffees in the world. But how does it taste? Why does it cost so much? And is it even worth the hype?
Keep reading, and you’ll discover the answers to all of these questions and more. First, though, let’s clear up some confusion:
At a Glance: Best Geisha Coffee
Is it spelled Gesha or Geisha?
This remarkable coffee bean variety comes from and is named after Ethiopia’s Gesha region. However, somewhere along the way, “Gesha” was misspelled as “Geisha” (like the Japanese entertainers), and today, most of the world knows them as Geisha coffee plants rather than using the correctly spelled term. Sometimes, bags of these types of coffee beans are sold with pictures of Geishas printed on them, despite having no real relation to the Asian performing artists!
Unless one of the brands we highlight uses the incorrect spelling on a bag of its beans, we’ll default to using the correct spelling – Gesha – for the duration of this article. This is not only for accuracy’s sake but also because it’s preferable to drop the unnecessary letter out of respect for the region from which this joe came.
Quick Summary: Best Geisha Coffee
|Panama Gesha Lot 290||Check Price →|
|Hacienda La Esmeralda Panamanian Geisha Coffee||Check on Amazon →|
|Volcanica Geisha Coffee||Check on Amazon →|
|Black Toucan Coffee Geisha Coffee||Check on Amazon →|
|Hayman Coffee Panama Geisha Coffee Beans||Check on Amazon →|
The Origin of Gesha Coffee
The Gesha coffee bean plant was collected from Ethiopia’s Gori Gesha forest in the 1930s and brought to Costa Rica in the 1950s. But, the Gesha coffee boom didn’t begin until 2004, when father and son duo Price and Daniel Peterson entered their Panamanian Gesha beans in that year’s Best of Panama national coffee competition, an event that’s kind of like the Oscars for coffee.
Price and Daniel Peterson, who took over Panama’s now-famous Hacienda La Esmeralda coffee plantation in 1996, won the top prize in the competition. Since then, the popularity of Gesha beans has only continued to rise.
What does Gesha coffee taste like?
Coffee professionals of the world agree: the Gesha coffee variety’s taste is just incomparable.
The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) — perhaps the most recognized and accepted authority on coffee standards — gave this type of coffee a flavor score of 94 out of 100, making Gesha coffee one of the best-tasting joes in the world. (For context, the typical single-origin specialty coffee ranks 80+.)
Many have tried to describe the tasting notes present in a cup of Gesha coffee. Some say the stuff is typically characterized by sweet floral flavor notes, including fruity, citrusy blossoms. Others say Gesha’s flavor profile features hints of apricot, mango, cherry, rose, juniper, lavender, bergamot, and cacao. One thing everyone agrees upon, however, is its brilliant jasmine aroma.
It may be hard to imagine a cup littered with so many floral and fruit-like flavors, but that’s only fitting for a bean that’s said to be more complex than any other coffee varietal. Coffee connoisseurs may use different terms to describe Gesha coffee’s taste, but all agree it has superior clarity and smooth acidity that pair beautifully with its silky tasting notes.
The complex flavor profile that Gesha coffee lovers go crazy for is the result of how these beans are grown and harvested. The Gesha coffee plant thrives in unique environmental factors. Most of it is grown at Volcan Baru, the tallest mountain in Panama, sitting at an impressive 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) above sea level in the Boquete Panama region. This area’s typical terrain includes hills, mountains, rivers, and ravines, and the influence of volcanic soils, mist-creating winds, and cool nights create Gesha coffee’s signature flavor.
The Most Demanding Coffee Plant
Growing the Gesha coffee plant is no easy feat, as it’s much more demanding than regular coffee trees. The plant on which the Gesha coffee bean cherry grows is low yielding, high maintenance, and sensitive to altitude. Their elongated leaves are prone to coffee diseases and fungi and must be tended to for a long time before growers can harvest anything. Gesha growers have to put in eight years of work rather than the average four or five other coffee plants require.
Additionally, the coffee beans these plants yield, which the locals pick in the mountaintops, have to be dried for more than a week! Growing this joe requires a lot of dedication, but it’s worth it, as the fruits of coffee farmers’ labor rock the worlds of coffee aficionados everywhere.
The Most Expensive Coffee Beans in the World?
Unfortunately, the delicate flavors described above will probably have to be left to average coffee drinkers’ imaginations because Gesha coffee beans are not easy to find. And should coffee snobs stumble upon some of the stuff, they’ll need to pay a pretty penny to get it.
At the 2004 Best of Panama coffee auction, Gesha joe was sold for a whopping $803 per pound. But that’s not the highest these beans have ever cost, though. In 2019, Elida Geisha Coffee’s Green Tip Natural java sold for $1,029 per pound!
Since Gesha beans are hard to obtain and their popularity has skyrocketed, specialty coffee shops have to bid on them in auctions. Unfortunately for these coffeehouse owners, this stuff sells out pretty quickly, even with such an expensive price tag.
Limited supplies of Gesha coffee — demand being much higher than the plants can yield — have made it one of the most expensive coffees in the world, up there among civet coffee* and Black Ivory Coffee. In some places today, it’s sold for as much as $110 per cup! Don’t fret, though; there are still a few places that offer Gesha brew at more affordable prices. In Panama, cups of coffee sell for around $9, while select New York cafés provide it for around $18.
Though its unmatched taste and high demand make this coffee so expensive, many java fanatics are desperate to try this stuff because of what it represents. Gesha coffee has become a symbol of perfection and, because of its arduous production process, a symbol of the effort required to create a perfect cup of coffee.
*If Gesha beans have piqued your interest, keep exploring the world of high-end coffee by reading up on civet beans — a.k.a., cat poop coffee — here. Because this stuff has a higher price tag than Gesha beans, the average coffee lover probably won’t be adding it to their morning routine, but at the very least, they might learn a few new facts to share with their fellow java drinkers.
Roasty Rankings: Our Picks for Best Geisha Coffee
After learning more about this coffee royalty, are you intrigued enough to seek out some of these beans for yourself? Here’s a quick rundown of the best Gesha coffee you can find on the web.
Bean & Bean Coffee Company Panama Gesha Lot 290
Panama Gesha Lot 290
Gesha coffee is known to have some of the highest cup scores in the world. This natural processed Gesha coffee is wildly complex, with intense sweetness and clarity.
First up is a batch of Gesha beans from Bean & Bean Coffee Company. This Panamanian coffee comes from Janson Coffee Farm; a family-owned lot settled between the Tisingal and Baru volcanoes. No need to question the quality of coffee you’ll get here, as this stuff is the first-prize winner of the 2020 Best of Panama coffee competition. In other words: it’s good.
Give yourself a captivating coffee experience by pouring a fresh cup of Bean & Bean Coffee’s Gesha brew. You’ll be greeted by a mouthful of fruity flavors — hints of pear, apple, black tea, pleasant floral notes, and white sugar sweetness.
Hacienda La Esmeralda Panamanian Geisha Coffee
You could settle for cheaper coffee beans, or you could pick some from Hacienda La Esmeralda, a.k.a., one of the most famous Gesha regions. The choice is yours, but if we were you, we’d choose the latter.
Hacienda La Esmeralda’s Grand Reserve beans come from the Boquete region of the Chiriqui province in the southwest of Panama. The Peterson family, who bought the farm in 1967, is still involved in the production process. This Panamanian Geisha coffee has been dubbed one of the finest joes in the world for over 20 years, so it’s a great choice if you want to experience the traditional flavor profile that puts Gesha/Geisha beans on the map.
These washed beans are available in a medium or dark roast, but if you prefer doing the roasting yourself, purchase a bag of unroasted green Panama Hacienda La Esmeralda coffee beans.
Volcanica Geisha Coffee
The most discerning coffee lovers should know Panama isn’t the only place to find this special java. It also comes from other areas, like Costa Rica, for example. Volcanica Coffee’s Geisha coffee beans are proof. This medium roast is known for its silky-smooth mouthfeel and gentle acidity with lavender, jasmine, and flowering grass flavors. You may also notice a lingering cocoa finish and hints of molasses.
You might particularly enjoy these beans if you’re monitoring your caffeine intake, as they’ve got 30 percent less caffeine than other products do.
Black Toucan Coffee Geisha Coffee
There’s no need for you to settle for bad coffee. Instead, sip a cup of Black Toucan’s exquisite honey-processed Geisha coffee. Like Volcanica’s product, each coffee bean in this bag comes from a single estate in Costa Rica, not Panama.
After they’re hand-picked, Black Toucan’s Geisha coffee beans are honey-processed and medium-roasted before being packaged and shipped to your door. Once you brew them, you end up with a pot of refreshingly fruity coffee littered with notes of jasmine, mango, peach, apple, sugar cane, and caramel — so good!
Hayman Coffee Panama Geisha Coffee Beans
There are some downright delicious coffee blends out there, but Hayman Coffee’s Geisha isn’t among them. The brand prides itself in selling only 100 percent pure Geisha coffee that’s never mixed with inferior beans.
This java is medium-roasted in small batches the same day it is shipped, guaranteeing that anyone who purchases a bag of this coffee receives the freshest beans possible. Hayman’s joe boasts the same aromas and jasmine notes that most Geisha coffee beans do, plus hints of mango and mandarin flavor.
Where to Buy Gesha Coffee
One of the easiest ways to score a batch of these beans is to click one of the links above and purchase a product from one of the coffee brands we reviewed. But if you’re not crazy about buying coffee from Amazon, you’ve got a few other options.
First, you can go directly to a brand’s website, as several coffee producers have online shops from which you can order. If you’d rather buy a single cup, however, you’ll need to find a specialty coffee shop that offers it. But since it’s such a rare and expensive coffee, you may not have much luck finding it in your area.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s so special about Gesha coffee?
The flavor is the factor that most sets Gesha coffee apart from other kinds of java. It’s known for its floral and fruity notes, plus a smoother mouthfeel than most other brews. Some say it more closely resembles tea than coffee. From the way it’s grown to the way it tastes in your cup, Gesha coffee is a true one-of-a-kind treat.
Why is Gesha coffee so expensive?
Gesha coffee is more expensive than the average coffee bean for a few reasons. The first factor contributing to the price of this joe is that these coffee plants are more challenging to maintain than others. They require very specific conditions to thrive and must be taken care of for longer than the average coffee plant.
Perhaps demand is the biggest reason the prices for specialty coffee of this variety are so high. Due to the persnickety nature of this coffee bean plant, only a certain amount of the stuff can be grown per year. And unfortunately, that quantity is not nearly enough to accommodate all those who hope to get their hands on these beans.
Is Gesha coffee worth the price?
Let’s face it: Gesha is an expensive coffee, so unless you’ve got a pretty generous budget, it isn’t an everyday joe. But is it worth shelling out such a significant chunk of change to get it? Well, that depends on how much you like coffee.
If you’re someone who would rather celebrate with a pot of strong drip instead of a glass of bubbly champagne, then it might be worth it to splurge on a bag of Gesha to sip on a special occasion with your loved ones. If you’re brewing on a budget (and there’s no shame in that!) or don’t particularly care about premium coffee, your money is probably better spent on something cheaper.
For what it’s worth, though, the good folks here at Roasty think if the opportunity presents itself and your bank account allows, you should get your hands on some of this joe.
What type of coffee is Gesha?
Gesha beans fall in the arabica coffee family. If you’re not quite sure what that means, we’ve got a full breakdown of arabica and robusta coffee you can read here. But if you don’t feel like doing much reading, here’s all you need to know about arabica beans: they account for about 60 percent of the world’s coffee consumption!
How do you drink Gesha coffee?
Experiencing all the distinct flavors of Gesha coffee to the fullest means brewing and consuming the beans with care. Be sure you grind your beans fresh to use with your brewing method of choice (check out our grind size chart for guidance) and pay close attention to your coffee to water ratio (consider using a coffee scale for the most precise brewing process). Additionally, brew with filtered water, and store your beans — both whole and ground — properly in an airtight container to preserve their flavor until you’re ready to use them.
Once you’ve carefully brewed your Gesha coffee beans, we recommend sipping the beverage black so you can take in all of the exotic fruit flavors and aromas Gesha gurus go crazy for. If you’re not a member of the black coffee club, you can, of course, add milk, creamer, or sugar to your cup, but try not to go overboard. Trust us. You’ll want to experience as much of Gesha’s natural goodness as possible.
It may not have anything to do with the traditional Japanese entertainer of the same name, but Gesha coffee still has quite the personality; it’s one of the most extraordinary coffees out there!
Its distinctive flavor and Specialty Coffee Association recognition make it a hot commodity among average joe enthusiasts and professional coffee tasters around the world. Those things, plus complexity and smoothness, make Gesha coffee one of the most in-demand coffees on the market right now.
If you get a chance to try a cup of this, the coffee world’s symbol of perfection, do it. We don’t think you’ll regret it.