Panama Geisha coffee, or Gesha coffee, is one of the most highly regarded coffees on the planet. This coffee variety cropped up at the Best of Panama auction in 2004 and attracted a lot of attention. It has remained a secret known only to true coffee enthusiasts.
Is it Geisha or “Gesha”?
The real name for this Panama coffee, it could be argued, is Gesha coffee. At some point, someone mistakenly inserted an “I”, turning it into Geisha coffee and this has produced a lot of mistaken marketing and associations.
Geisha are Japanese entertainers, but this particular type of coffee has nothing to do with Japan. Of course, simply having a similar name has been enough to make some roasters and coffee brands make boxes and advertising posters with Japanese artwork on them.
Gesha coffee was discovered in the 1930s, in Ethiopia. It was transported to Kenya, Tanzania, and Panama. It takes its name from the Gesha region in Ethiopia, but the Geisha name appears to have stuck in some parts of the world.
Some regions of Central America call it “Geisha”, and some other regions write “Gesha.” Whatever you decide to call it, one thing is clear, it has been winning a lot of awards, and people are willing to pay a lot of money to sample its distinctive taste.
Why The Hype?
Over the last 15 years, Geisha has won numerous prizes, and it has earned the crown of the ‘most expensive coffee in the world’. Some coffees are popular because they are disease resistant, which makes them cheap to grow for mass-produced, instant coffees.
Some are high yield, which again, makes them convenient for decent filter coffees. Some, such as bourbon, are harder to grow because they need more care, but they taste good. These end up making it into the multi varietal blends that are for the more discerning coffee lover.
This particular variety, however, has a distinct floral aroma, and a powerful taste that is unlike any other coffee. The closest you can get to it would be the Yirgacheffe, also from Ethiopia. This has a similar fruity flavor, but it has much less body.
Gesha has won roaster’s awards and has helped many baristas to win awards over the last 15 years. In the coffee industry, it is a big deal and a source of a lot of excitement. Since it is expensive, it hasn’t made it into collections and or even “hipster” coffee shops.
Gesha, is much more powerful, and much richer. It’s not a coffee that you would drink daily. The slightly sweet, fruity taste, with a full body and a low acidity isn’t the sort of thing that most people expect when they go for a caffeine injection. It is, however, a special treat. It’s the coffee equivalent of fine wine.
A Treat That Comes at a Cost
Think of this variety as being the equivalent of fine wine. It is already being sold for as much as $396 for 8.4oz on some high-end coffee sites. While that is at the extreme end of the price spectrum, and many roasters are offering Gesha coffee at a much lower price than that, you can still expect to pay as much as $200 per pound for a decent roast. Prices vary massively depending on the region that the coffee comes from and the current trends at auction.
Coffee Prices Are Set to Increase
Coffee prices are driven by numerous factors, some of which are beyond our short-term control. Climate change is a serious issue and there is a condition known as coffee rust which is devastating many crops.
While some plants are resistant to coffee rust, not all strains of coffee are, and this means that the strains which growers favor may change over time.
Another thing that is affecting demand for coffee is the growth of the market in general. Starbucks made a push into Asia in 2014, opening more than 740 stores across China and the Asia Pacific regions. That’s a huge uptick in demand, and growers may struggle to keep up. More demand means higher prices.
Is Gesha Worth The Money?
If you’re the sort of person that tends to drink instant, Folgers, or some other form of commercially sold coffee, then you would consider the price point as quite high.
With that said, now is the time to try Gesha coffee. Companies like Hayman sell Geisha coffee for $191/lb (available in boxes of 3oz and 6.7oz) , it might still be a rather large commitment. Gesha is not the only expensive coffee on the market, but unlike some other varieties which are produced by less ethical means, Gesha has an interesting story and a truly interesting flavor too.
If you’re not interested in Gesha, there are many other coffees that are a bit more affordable. They are well worth your consideration, especially if you haven’t tried anything more sophisticated than a good Bourbon.