In the world of streetwear, there is Supreme; for whisky enthusiasts, there are the aged whiskies of Japan and in the world of specialty coffee, the Gesha reigns atop the pedestal of the most sought-after coffees in the world. It seems, that whenever some obscenely priced coffee comes out onto the market, you’re almost guaranteed that it will be of a Gesha varietal. You’re also more likely to see Gesha coffees being used by champion baristas when competing at huge coffee events, with different baristas likely sourcing their coffees from the same company handling the same exclusive farm.
There definitely is an excitement from both the home brewer and the professional barista when presented the opportunity to either brew or consume a cup of these highly-prized coffees, but it might help to bring some context as to where exactly these coffees come from.
Although both the terms Gesha and Geisha have been in regular use for the better part of over a decade, the origins of the coffee come from the Gori Gesha forest in Ethiopia. In the coffee world, “Gesha” typically refers to the coffees from Ethiopia and other countries where they have begun harvesting these coffees, while “Geisha” came into the lexicon from the award-winning Panamanian variety that has been setting records since it’s debut at the Best of Panama show in 2004.
It doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that some of the world’s best coffees would come from the historical birthplace of coffee, but what really brought the Gesha coffee to international fame was when a Panama Geisha coffee from Hacienda La Esmeralda reached a (then) record price of $21/pound. Suddenly, coffee aficionados and roasters around the world were scrambling to get their hands on these incredibly special coffees.
So what exactly makes these coffees special? From an objective standpoint, Gesha coffees have been consistently scored highly by licensed Q-graders (individuals who have been certified to score coffee based on a particular set of metrics). Regardless of whether they’re the Ethiopian or Panamanian variety, these coffees have ranked very highly at coffee auctions, often setting records wherever they are. With a wide variety of tasting and cupping notes like jasmine, lime, rose, strawberries, and honeysuckle, it is no surprise that Gesha coffees are often used at barista competitions to truly bring great flavors forward.
At the end of the day, it’s a simple question of economics. With the high demand for great quality Gesha coffees and an obviously limited crop or supply, you can expect to continue paying high prices for a cup of these great coffees. They are obviously not economical to be for your daily brews but when the opportunity arises to try some Gesha coffee, take a chance and excuse yourself for a once-in-a-while splurge to taste why these coffees consistently set the bar.
I guarantee they’ll be worth your while.
Words by Ryan Uy @thenameisrye