If you tell any coffee connoisseur that most coffees taste similar, you’re probably going to get yourself in a fight.
Some coffee varieties have established their place in the coffee hall of fame. And Geisha coffee is one of them.
It doesn’t come from Japan, as the name could lead you to believe, but from the Gesha region in Ethiopia and was misspelled somewhere along the way.
The coffee’s history is unique, the coffee plants are demanding and hard to grow and it is considered to be one of the best as well as the most expensive coffees in the world.
Why is it so expensive? What does it taste like? And is it worth the hype?
This article is going to answer all of these questions.
At a Glance: Best Geisha Coffee
Quick Summary: Best Geisha Coffee
|Hayman Panama Geisha Coffee||Check on Amazon →|
|Panama La Hacienda Esmeralda||Check on Amazon →|
|Belux Coffee Panama Geisha||Check on Amazon →|
|Mudhouse Finca La Mula Geisha||Check on Amazon →|
|Volcanica Coffee Geisha Costa Rica||Check on Amazon →|
The Origin of Ge(i)sha Coffee
This unique type of coffee originated in Gori Gesha forest, in Ethiopia, and was traditionally called Gesha. However, today, most of the world knows it by the name Geisha coffee. And it is sometimes even misleadingly sold with pictures of this traditional Japanese entertainer.
From Ethiopia, it was brought to Costa Rica in the 1950s and nowadays it is mainly grown in Panama. One of the most well-known regions for Geisha coffee is Hacienda la Esmeralda in Panama, where it was first discovered by a father and son duo Price and Daniel Peterson in 1996. Then, they processed and harvested the beans in 2004, starting a Geisha coffee boom.
The Most Demanding Coffee Plant
Geisha coffee has a characteristic and complex flavor profile which is caused by the way it is grown and harvested. The plant thrives in a unique terrain and most of it is grown at Volcan Baru, which is the tallest mountain in Panama at the altitude of approximately 1500 meters (5000ft) above sea level, in the Boquete Panama region.
The typical terrain of this area is hills, mountains, rivers, and ravines. And the Geisha coffee flavor complexity comes from the influence of volcanic soils, mist creating winds and cool nights.
What’s more, the Geisha coffee plant is one of the most demanding ones. Plants are low yielding, high maintenance, take longer before they can be harvested (8 years compared to an average of 4-5 years in other coffees).
The plants are also sensitive to altitude and prone to disease and fungus. The beans have to be dried for more than a week and are picked by the locals in the mountaintops, even today. Needless to say, growing this coffee requires a lot of dedication.
What About the Taste?
It isn’t only the difficulty in growing and harvesting the Geisha coffee that makes it so unique. Coffee specialists of the world agree on its incomparable taste.
The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), which is a recognized authority for everything coffee related, gave Geisha coffee an insane 94 flavor score out of 100. In comparison, the ranking for typical single-origin specialty coffee is 80+. This makes Geisha coffee one of the best-tasting coffees in the world. Officially.
A lot of people are trying to describe the tasting notes of Geisha coffee. It is characterized by sweet floral flavors, fruity and citrusy blossoms. Other descriptions are more specific and talk about apricot, mango, cherry fruit as well as rose, juniper, lavender, bergamot or cacao. And everybody talks about jasmine.
It’s a flavor that is hard to imagine but that is probably fitting for a coffee bean that is perceived to be more complex than any other varietal. Coffee connoisseurs use different terms to describe it but they all agree on its superior clarity, smooth acidity, together with silky and fruity notes.
The Most Expensive Coffee in the World?
The mentioned flavors will probably need to be left for imagination because Geisha coffee is not easy to find. At the Best of Panama Auction of 2004, which is where the best of Panama coffee is showcased and is considered to be something like Oscars for coffee, it was sold for $803 per pound. With “Elida Natural Geisha ” variety sold for $1029 per pound in 2019.
Since the Geisha coffee is hard to obtain and its popularity has skyrocketed, the cafes need to bid on it in auctions to get a chance to get hold of it. And it sells out quickly.
With demand being much bigger than the coffee plants can yield, it has truly become the most expensive coffee in the world, being sold for as much as $110 per cup today. If you ever plan to travel to Panama though, don’t forget to taste it, a cup of Geisha coffee goes for roughly $9 there.
And maybe it’s not even the unmatched taste and the high demand that makes this coffee so popular and expensive. Geisha has become a symbol of perfection, and because of its demanding production process, also a symbol of the dedicated effort to create a perfect cup of coffee.
Amazon Buying Guide
Are you intrigued by this coffee royalty and want to decide on your tasting notes? Here’s a quick rundown of some of the best Geisha that can be found on Amazon.
Hayman Panama Geisha coffee
Hayman Panama Geisha coffee is a 100% genuine Geisha from the Panama region. It is medium roasted and done so fresh on the date of the order. It comes with a beautiful exclusive packaging that matches the premium status of this coffee. You can expect characteristic floral and complex mouthfeel with exotic notes of mango and mandarin and a classic jasmine aroma.
Panama la Hacienda Esmeralda
La Hacienda Esmeralda is one of the most famous Geisha regions and it is believed to be the farm where the original crop was discovered. Produced in the Boquete region of the Chiriqui province in the South-West of Panama.
The variety has a long history and the Paterson family is still involved in the whole production process and boasts of the consistency of being one of the finest coffees in the world for over 20 years. It is a great choice if you want to experience this traditional flavor profile that earned Geisha its popularity. This one is processed using the washed method and you can choose the coffee to be roasted dark, medium or even opt for unroasted green beans if you prefer to roast the coffee yourself.
Belux Coffee Panama Geisha
Another representative of the top Panamanian Geisha is roasted in the USA by Belux Coffee. They pride themselves on handpicking all the defective beans and roasting in micro-batches to ensure superior quality.
The medium roast from Belux is naturally processed, has distinct floral notes of bergamot, typical jasmine and stone fruit. The cup is balanced, complex with clean acidity and a silky mouthfeel.
Mudhouse Finca La Mula Geisha
Showcasing a different region than the classic La Hacienda, Mudhouse offers Geisha from Finca La Mula origin. This pack is a combination of the Geisha coffee and Geisha cascara (coffee cherry tree) which is a special pairing that allows you to taste the coffee as well as the coffee cherry tea. Because of Geisha’s unique flavor profile, this is a worthwhile experience.
Mudhouse is also a winner of the 2017 micro-roaster of the year award and this coffee boasts of fruity notes of blackcurrant, passionfruit and as well as lingering notes of dried papaya, rose, caramel, cacao and, of course, jasmine.
Volcanica Coffee Geisha Costa Rica
For the well-educated coffee enthusiasts who know that Geisha isn’t only grown in Panama and want to try one that comes from Costa Rica, where the “gesha” originated in the 1950s, this is a great choice.
It comes as a medium roast and the cup is characterized by gentle acidity, typical fruity and floral notes of lavender, jasmine, flowering grass but also a lingering finish of cocoa and hints of molasses.
Geisha coffee doesn’t signify the traditional Japanese performer but still has quite a personality. Its most unique characteristics are the harsh conditions in which the geisha plant thrives and its superior status recognized by the Specialty Coffee Association and coffee enthusiasts as well as cafes around the world.
Its complexity, clean acidity, smooth mouthfeel, and unique fragrant and fruity notes make it one of the most demanded and most expensive coffees on the market right now.
If you get a chance to get your hands on a cup of this symbol of perfection in the coffee world, it is worth a try.