Geisha. Gesha. No Matter How You Spell It, It's The Most Expensive Coffee In The World

Justin Goldstein • May 30, 2020 • 3 min read

Coffee Bubbles

$100 Coffee?! What’s The Deal With That?

Coffee can vary wildly in price, but there is one major outlier that consistently demands top dollar – the Geisha. I personally have only had the opportunity to drink Geisha on a few occasions, however, I can confidently say it delivers a unique coffee experience that is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. With that said, I still come back to the price. It’s not uncommon to pay $50-100 a cup for Panamanian Geisha, but why is that the case?  What makes this coffee so special? While spending that amount of money on coffee isn’t for everyone, I think it’s important to know why this varietal has caught on like wildfire and has so many coffee connoisseurs across the world shelling out the dough.

What is Geisha Coffee?

Geisha (or Gesha) refers to a specific varietal of coffee that originated in Ethiopia, in the Gori Gesha forest. The spelling of Gesha has adapted over the years. Most typically, international coffee buyers will use the spelling Geisha. While it originated in Ethiopia, it later made its way to Costa Rica and then Panama, where it became an overnight success after delivering top marks at the 2004 Best of Panama Coffee Auction. The coffee blew away all taste evaluators and cemented Panamanian Geisha as the creme de la creme of the coffee world. At that time, only one farm, Hacienda la Esmeralda, was producing this prized Geisha, and the demand and subsequent prices continued to rise over the following years. While additional farms in Panama have since started to cultivate Geisha in the last decade, the prices remain incredibly high. Other Latin American countries, like Colombia and Guatemala, have jumped into the Geisha game giving consumers more price-friendly options, but Panamanian Geisha remains the most prized. Last year, the most expensive Panamanian Geisha sold for $1,029 per pound at auction. That mind-blowing figure is 1,000x the cost of today’s commodity coffee price!

What Does This Liquid Gold Taste Like?

The flavor profile and subsequent cupping score are really what makes the Geisha so special. Geisha's consistently outperform other varietals and commonly deliver cupping scores >95. The flavor profile is unlike anything you would expect to come out of Latin American soil and is more similar to Ethiopian Yirgacheffe but with a fuller body. It has an intense, almost perfume-like aroma and delivers very fruit-forward notes. It’s common to experience tropical fruit, citrus, and even tea notes in the cup.

Okay, You Sold Me, Now What Geisha Should I Buy?

With more countries starting to produce Geisha than ever before, you are no longer forced to shell out absurd money for Panamanian Geisha. While I would still encourage you to try some if you can get your hands on it, there are some amazing options from other Latin American countries that will still deliver that WOW factor without as much sticker shock. If you choose something most cost-conscious, like a Geisha from Colombia, you will be getting similar flavors to the prized beans from Panama for a fraction of the cost. If you snag a cup from your favorite third-wave coffee shop, chances are they will take every measure to ensure it’s properly brewed, but if you’re drinking it at home, make sure you’re giving this coffee all of your attention and getting the perfect extraction.

When Should I Drink Geisha?

Let’s be clear, any Geisha is a luxury and should be treated as just that. While I encourage everyone to try a cup, it isn’t going to be an everyday indulgence unless you’re an absolute baller. In my opinion, it’s a special coffee that should be reserved for such occasions. When the moment comes, it’s important to make sure it’s brewed right, and you are experiencing it in all its glory, one sip at a time.


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