Best known for its high quality, exceptional cupping scores, and for being grown at higher elevations, the Gesha coffee variety has beautiful floral and fruity tastes. Gesha coffee trees require unique cultivation conditions as well as precise harvesting schedules. Part of Gesha’s differentiated characteristics and singularity of flavor stems from the coffee plant’s native origin.
Originally from Ethiopia, it is no wonder Gesha cherries grown across coffee producing regions resemble their northeast African counterparts in taste and smell. Much like Geshas, many other varieties of Ethiopian coffees are similarly known for their complexity of bright fruited and floral flavors.
Take for instance, Halo Beriti, which comes to us from the town of Yirgacheffe in the Gideo Zone region of southern Ethiopia. A combination of JARC Selections & Indigenous Landraces varieties, Halo Beriti represents all the qualities we have come to know and love from washed Ethiopian coffees with notes of honeydew melon and honeycomb and creamy mouthfeel.
GESHAS & THE SPECIALTY COFFEE INDUSTRY
That is why when the first Gesha coffee hit the specialty coffee scene in 2004, veteran coffee experts tasted the Panamanian-grown coffee from the now-famous Hacienda La Esmeralda and assumed it was indeed grown in Ethiopia, not in Central America. Shocking coffee connoisseurs and growers alike, this Gesha coffee went on to sell at globally record highs at auction.
But how did a coffee plant from Ethiopia like the Gesha tree become an internationally-famed coffee now grown globally across Central America, Latin America, Asia, and Africa?
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF THE GESHA VARIETY?
The gesha variety was first singled out in the 1930’s from the Ethiopian region of Gesha (Geisha) and collected for further research. It was originally sent to a research station in Tanzania before being sent to a Central American research center called CATIE in 1953. From there, due to its lack of resistance to diseases common in that part of the world, it was not widely grown until the Peterson Family in Panama managed to fetch $20 per pound.
There have been many varieties that have been labeled “gesha” since the introduction of the Panamanian Geisha or T2722, but most of them are close relatives and stem from regions nearby in Ethiopia and are of a slightly different genetic makeup. Being in the genetic group of Ethiopian Landraces, there are many varieties that would carry a near comparable flavor profile but are not of the accession of T2722.
GESHA VS. GEISHA: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Over the years there have been subtle grumblings about the spelling of the “gesha” variety and most of this comes down to a difference in transliteration. Among the early records tracking this particular variety the gene banks typically used the spelling geisha, but over time as the industry has assessed the proper way to transliterate the Gesha region in Ethiopia, that form of spelling has become the custom for many roasters and producers. However, both versions are still seen and are rather interchangeable.
WHAT FACTORS LEAD TO GESHA BEING A HIGHER PRICE?
One of the leading contributors to the high price of the gesha variety is, well, its incredible flavor profile. The standard cup score for a specialty arabica coffee could be notated at around 85-86 points, whereas a gesha and its close cousins will typically score in the range of 89+ points. What this means in the cup profile is a very fruit forward acidity and sweetness much like guava, peach, mango or other tropical and stone fruits followed by a decadent or creamy mouthfeel and a clean and sweet finish. Gesha is one of the few varieties that as the coffee cools you may think you’re drinking fruit juice rather than coffee (which is pretty much hot fruit juice anyway if we’re being honest).
The more pressing factors to its high price is its susceptibility to diseases, its high growing altitude which generally comes with a lower fruit yield and its smaller than average bean (seed) size. With all of these growing factors taken into consideration, everything has to be just right for farmers to produce a quality gesha that lives up to its name. It is quite the risky undertaking and investment, so its rarity along with its high profile cup scores make this one of the most expensive coffee varieties in the world.
Read more about our current gesha’s from Finca Cedral Alto here.