Geisha coffee: is it Really
Worth Your Buck?

Spirit Animal Blog

You’ve probably heard about her before. The Queen of Beans. The brew that snatched a whopping $100 a cup.

She has a mild, tea-like character. Her flavor complexity ranges from peach, mango, or raspberry, and all the way to hints of bergamot and orange peel. Something remarkable.

Geisha Coffee flavor

But is Geisha coffee just a hype? Or does it justify its price tag?

From Ethiopian

Geisha coffee: from Ethiopian princess
to Panama Sleeping Beauty


Tiny spoiler alert: it’s not Japanese coffee. Geisha variety was discovered in the Ethiopian highland region of Gesha and got misspelled along the way. In the 1930s, a British consul brought it over to Tanzania. From there, it was sent on a long voyage to Costa Rica and then Panama, hoping it would help fight the Roya, the insidious coffee rust that was spreading across Central America. But initial experiments didn’t end well. And so, our African princess fell into oblivion.

Until a visionary man decided to invest all his efforts and change Geisha’s fate

Don Pachi and the re-discovery
of Geisha Coffee

It was Francisco Serracín, known as Don Pachi. He saw something in this coffee variety when everyone else thought it was rubbish.
He planted the trees further apart, even if it meant less yield per plot. He brought the trees higher up on the slopes of the
Barú Volcano in Panama. There, coffee cherries took longer to ripen, but this brought a big plus. They developed a whole new world of complexity.

In 2004, the wild Geisha idea finally got the attention it deserved. Don Pachi entered the Taste of Panama competition with his unwashed Geisha.

And blew the socks off everyone in the cupping room.

It was something people have never tasted before.

The misspelling turned to be something of a premonition. Geisha indeed turned out to have tea-like traits.

Re-discovery Geisha Coffee

That year, Geisha sold for $21 a pound. A remarkable result in and of itself. But it was just the tip. In the years that followed, Geisha coffee acquired a solid fan base willing to pay big bucks for a pound of this beauty. This year, it sold over $1,300 per pound, unroasted. Roasted and served—it set you back one hundred bucks per cup.

And so, our misspelled black swan became the world’s most expensive coffee.

Taste like

What does Geisha Coffee taste like?

Geisha is clean, wonderfully floral, with just the right level of acidity. Its complexity of flavors spans from fruity mango, peach, and raspberry, to final hints of bergamot and jasmine.

There is a natural sweetness to Geisha you won’t find in any other coffee variety. While most coffee calls for an extra spoon of refined sugar, Geisha doesn’t require any.

This trait makes it a particularly healthy choice, reducing the risk of sugar-associated diseases like diabetes II.

Filter-brewed






But these are the more general traits. In the end, Geisha’s final complexity will always depend on the micro-climate of where it is grown.

The same intricacy and mildness is also the reason why Geisha hasn’t gained mass popularity. These delicate flavors are best enjoyed when filter-brewed.

Dip this coffee into a milk-drenched latte or press it into an espresso machine—which is how 80% of humans take their joe—and all joy is lost

Geisha coffee today: just a hype?

The short answer is: no. But let’s look into the why.

First, growing Geisha is no picnic. Its leaves are narrower and less dense than those of other varieties. This makes photosynthesis more difficult. Its root system is less developed, too. A trait that makes Geisha more susceptible to troubles like fungi. In sum, Geisha coffee produces less than half the beans compared to a variety like Catuai.

Second, Geisha coffee loves high altitude, at 1,700 m above sea level or higher. That's where it develops its full flavor potential. The higher the lot, the less oxygen is in the air. And so it takes eight dire years for Geisha to reach its full potential.

Just a hype?

Mountain

Third, Geisha is tricky to roast. A fraction of a second too much, and the beans will lose all the more delicate aromas, giving way to chocolate and caramel undertones. Defining the perfect roast profile for Geisha requires an artist-cum-scientist, who has to rely on sensory experience but also juggle between a handful of variables like roast time, temperature, drum speed, and airflow.

Exclusivity and low yields come with a price tag. That’s why, even with a lower cupping score, a bag of Geisha will be more expensive than its cousin variety.

This is arguably the most important point. Despite low yields, Geisha brings higher margins due to its exclusivity. In return, the small coffee farmer can reinvest more profits in improving farming practices and quality processes. Upgrades from which all coffee varieties grown on a farm reap benefits in the end. So growing Geisha has a direct impact on the quality of Catuai, Caturra, and Bourbon alike.

If you like Geisha, always remember that by buying it, you’re actually creating a virtuous cycle for the whole coffee farm. Want to know more? Read up on our own Geisha Project.

Geisha project

FAQS

I read about this super-fancy Geisha coffee. Do they grow coffee in Japan?

It’s a funny mistake. Geisha coffee comes from the Gesha region in Ethiopia. It got misspelled on its long voyage to Central America.
Want to know more about this Queen of Beans?

Sure

What makes Geisha coffee so unique?

Geisha has traits that no other coffee cultivar has. It’s mild, milky, almost tea-like. But there are other amazing things about this Queen of Beans.

Like what?

Why is Geisha coffee more expensive, even if it has a lower cupping score than some other coffees?

Geisha is an amazing variety, but it’s difficult to grow. It takes eight dire years for the plant to reach its full potential. And even when it gets there, Geisha will produce less than half the beans compared to a variety like Catuai.

Tell me more