January 23, 2023

  • Geisha coffee is a rare, ancient Ethiopian varietal.
  • Geisha's complicated growing process and low yields has made it arguably the most expensive coffee in the world.
  • It is known for its sweet flavor and aroma of floral notes, jasmine, chocolate, honey, and even black tea. 
You might have heard the term ‘Geisha’ somewhere along the grapevine. So what exactly is Geisha coffee, and what’s so special about it? 

Just so you know, we’re not referring to that Geisha. In fact, Geisha coffee has absolutely nothing to do with Japan. Rather, set your eyes to Latin America where a delicious, luxury coffee varietal is being grown, harvested and roasted for prices that often warrant a double-take. 

Deemed the most expensive coffee in the world, Geisha coffee is an extremely rare varietal of coffee bean with origins in ancient Ethiopia. Its recent rediscovery in Panama has set alarm bells off across the coffee industry for its rare yield, delicious taste and exceptionally high demand.  

Geisha refers to the particular varietal of coffee plant. Similarly to how different species of grapes create categories  for the wine industry, there are a multitude of subspecies in coffee. Each varietal promotes a specific and unique quality and taste. 

So what is so great about Geisha? 

Let’s jump to 2004 in Panama - to an estate called Hacienda la Esmeralda, where farmers noticed a variation of local coffee plants that exhibited superior disease resistance, plus a flavour profile that was atypical to the Latin American coffee climate.  

Come 2021, Panama had progressed as a luxury coffee farming destination with a high emphasis on the Geisha varietal. This marked the pivot of the specialty coffee landscape when a Geisha coffee from Panama was sold for over $2500 per pound, marking it as the most expensive coffee in the world. 

However, Geisha coffee is not just native to Panama. To be precise, the term Geisha refers to the type of coffee rather than the area. You can enjoy Geisha from Panama, Colombia, Mexico, and even Thailand! 

So what makes it so rare? For starters, Geisha coffee requires an incredibly specific cultivation atmosphere, and is extremely demanding in its maintenance. 

It also comes down to its incredibly distinct flavour profile. In the Specialty Coffee world, beans are scored through an assessment called the ‘Q Grade’. This qualification is a credential with the sole purpose to grade and assess green beans for commercial purchase and consumption. A score of 80+ points out of 100 is required for coffee to be considered ‘Specialty’ by the Specialty Coffee Association protocols. 

A Q Grader will assess a variety of parameters including, but not limited to, fragrance, aroma, flavour, acidity, body, balance, complexity and aftertaste. A perfect 100 is a near impossible score, while 90 is an absolutely phenomenal and rare result. In the industry it is anticipated that Geisha coffee from Panama will soon be the first coffee to receive a 100 score. Meaning, it really doesn’t get any better than this! 

There is no doubt that this impressive rating will come with a hefty price and Geisha coffee will likely be the most valuable, highest priced coffee in the world.

What does Geisha coffee taste like?

When tasting coffee, the following components typically make up a flavour profile: overall flavour, aromatics, balance, sweetness, acidity, complexity, mouthfeel and aftertaste. Geisha coffee will tend to receive top marks in all of these categories. Expect only the cleanest of aromas of jasmine, berry, bergamot, mango, peach, nectarine, and black tea. YUM.

How should I enjoy a Geisha coffee?

To enjoy the full complexity of Geisha coffee, adding milk, sugar or syrups is strongly discouraged. Fret not flat white fanatics, your taste buds won’t mind sipping on a Geisha with its delicate, tea-like body and fruity, floral aroma. 

Geisha is at its best through filter brewing methods such as pour over or plunger. This is because Geisha beans have a tendency to over extract and turn bitter very quickly if water temperature gets too high, so a base temperature of 89-92 degrees celsius is recommended for brewing. 

Filter brewing methods have a wider threshold for tweaking with variables such as water temperature, unlike espresso machines where high heat is a key condition for optimal espresso extraction. 

So if you love coffee and you’ve got the big bucks to spend, we highly recommend taking the time to appreciate the delicate aromas of a Geisha. Planning to brew it at home? We suggest an easy pour over such as Hario or Chemex, or an Aeropress kit. Enjoy!