Geisha coffee is on a run! Last year in the Best of Panama auction a coffee with the name Esmeralda Geisha Cañas Verdes Natural reached the highest selling point in history. Are you ready?
$601.00 per pound (453g)!
This natural processed coffee from the Cañas Verdes Farm is a product of the world famous coffee farm Hacienda La Esmeralda, owned by family Peterson, and scored an incredible 94.1 out of 100 on the cupping table. Compared to that, their Esmeralda Geisha Cañas Verdes Washed scored 90.04 and was sold for “just” $46.00 per pound. So what’s the deal behind Geisha coffee? Why does the Specialty Coffee community get so excited about it? And is Geisha like any other? Let’s take a closer look:
What is Geisha coffee?
Geisha is a variety of coffee arabica. The name Geisha refers to an area and a mountain in the southwest of Bonga, Ethiopia. From a wild coffee growing region, where unknown varieties of arabica coffee still can be found today, seeds were imported for the first time to Kenya in the early 1930’s. In 1953 some disease-resistant strain arrived in Costa Rica at CATIE’s, together with other introductions of Geisha from different research centers.
Finally in 1963 Geisha coffee from Costa Rica was brought to Panama and introduced as a more disease-resistant variety. The taste and quality was not good though, reports from this time show. The variety itself also disappeared from the focus of interest. It was the terroir of Boquete, a region in Panama, the high valley of a today world famous coffee farm – Hacienda La Esmeralda by family Peterson – and special climate conditions in Panama that unleashed this flavor potential.
The beginning – Hacienda La Esmeralda introduces Geisha coffee
I wish I could travel back in time and be a part of the 2004 “Best of Panama”auction. That year marks the start of the incredible success story of Geisha. With introducing the Geisha coffee by family Peterson some of the judges thought they were tricked. But the wonderful flavors of jasmin, lemongrass, sweet-lime and peach were real. Famous coffee people like Geoff Watts from Intelligentsia Coffee couldn’t believe it. With a score of 95.6 the judges awarded the coffee as a clear winner. In the first year of its appearance the coffee was sold for in today’s perspective just $21 per pound. When the auction hits $15 the responsbibles even stopped the online auction, hosted by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, due to suspicion of being hacked. But it was real and from that year on Geisha coffee climbs to new price records year by year.
Watch out and make your homework
If you ever have the chance to get a coffee from this category, do yourself a favor and don’t look at the price. Make sure you understand the taste of coffee, look out for a relaxing place and enjoy. I had the chance to enjoy it once and I immediately fell back to my first real coffee experience. Outstanding!
Bringing a coffee to this kind of quality is still a rarity. It is no surprise that other coffee farms want to be part of this success story. Today more and more farmers in America (even in Ethiopia) are growing Geisha coffee in the hope of reaching high prices. The scoring results are very different. As mentioned before, very special conditions are required to produce a coffee in such an outstanding quality. No secure formula exists. So here is the problem. You may pay a high(er) price for Geisha coffee, because you might have heard of the variety. But how do you know that it is worth your money?
Lately I heard that some farmers begin to mix Geisha coffee with other varieties, to get more money out of their beans. So what can you do? I think from a consumer perspective, the only chance you have is to speak with and trust your local roaster. If your local roaster is truly addicted to quality, he will cup different samples of Geisha just like any other variety and will select only those kinds of Geishas that are worth the money. You can also ask your roaster about details like origin, auction price, cupping score and flavor profile. In the end, it is all about the taste.