You’ve most likely heard of Japanese “Geisha girls,” but what about Geisha coffee? Originally from Ethiopia, this rare heirloom variety was brought to Kenya and eventually made its way over to Central America. Geisha coffee is known for its light body with honey and citrus flavors as well as an intense floral and jasmine-like aroma. Additional properties include a distinctly delicate acidity and hints of berries, papaya, mango, and mandarin oranges. It finishes with bergamot notes. The plant itself is singularly lovely, with elongated cherries of vivid scarlet.
Geisha coffee was first planted in Costa Rica in 1953, and cultivation of Geisha coffee began ten years later in Panama. Today, Panama is the world’s sole producer of this rare and exquisite coffee. Adding to its rarity is the fact that only a handful of Panamanian farms produce it, and it is known for having particularly low-yielding bushes. For this reason, the plant was not considered commercially viable and was never used to plant entire farms. The few farms that do plant Geisha coffee have been able to demand some of the highest-ever prices at coffee auctions.
Boquete, on the slopes of Volcan Baru, lies at the center of Panama’s coffee-growing region. Among the local farms growing Geisha coffee are Finca La Valentina, Hacienda La Esmeralda and Don Pachi Estate. This year, Finca La Valentina narrowly edged out long-time favorite Hacienda La Esmeralda for first place in the SCAA “Best of Panama” 2011 cupping competition, which took place in July. Hacienda La Esmeralda, it should be noted, placed first in the Long Beach Cupping Pavilion 2007 and Rainforest Alliance Cupping 2007.
Finca La Valentina’s coffee makes for a distinctive Geisha, with notes of white grape, lime, citrus blossom and honey suckle.
Forbes, in its reviews of the world’s most expensive coffees, praises Hacienda La Esmeralda coffee for its “extraordinary character… very smooth finish and long aftertaste.”
From the Don Pachi Estate, you find a roast rich in history. Don Pachi Serracin started growing Geisha coffee trees for practical reasons, since Geishas were found to be resistant to a disease affecting other coffee trees in the area. Taste Don Pachi’s Geisha coffee for floral and caramel flavors.
Looking to buy Geisha coffee? It won’t be cheap, but then again, life’s finer pleasures seldom are. To give you an idea of the rarity and high price of this coffee, an 8-ounce-bag of Finca La Valentina coffee sells for $60 online. Worth every penny.