Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters


Panama’s Geisha Coffee

Panamas Geisha Coffee Variety

Panama’s Geisha coffee, sometimes referred to as just Geisha or Gesha, is believed to be one of the most unique coffee varieties around.

The sweet, juicy flavor is sought after for both its exclusivity and unique taste.

The flavor combined with the floral, jasmine-like fragrance has enticed consumers and helped convince them to spend up to $350 per pound on this distinctive bean.

What makes this coffee so desirable?

A latte in the center of coffee beans

The History

It is believed that coffee originated in Ethiopia in the 15th century, or possibly even before. Over the years, coffee has spread all over the world and interacted with other plants and people.

close-up of coffee plant

The coffee plant has been cultivated into numerous varieties with a diverse array of flavors and fragrances.

The various flavor notes you taste in your coffee and scents you smell with each cup are a mixture of roast, growing region, and coffee variety.

The Geisha variety has a relatively new history within the coffee world.

In the 1930s, this variety was “rediscovered” by westerners.

piles of coffee cherries

It is believed that the Geisha variety has had an un-tampered evolution because of its isolation and could be genetically closer to the original coffee plant than anything else currently on the market.

In the 1950’s the plant was collected from Geisha, Ethiopia and traveled to a research facility in Costa Rica by way of Kenya and Tanzania. Eventually, in the 1960s, it made its way to Panama.

The Struggle

For years, Panama farmers tried to grow and cultivate the plant.

But unlike other varieties, Geisha plants grow slowly and produce roughly half the amount of the cherries of other coffee varieties. The plant was also prone to disease and had low resistance to bugs and pests.

view of Panama's coffee forest

These challenges increased the cost of production.

In the lower altitude farms, the coffee produced was bitter and unremarkable, making the Geisha variety a costly choice. Throughout most of Panama, the Geisha plant was replaced with less fickle plants that provided a more pleasant cup of coffee.

The lone holdout was the Esmeralda estate in the Boquete area of Panama.

The Re-discovery

Roughly four decades later,  the Esmeralda Geisha beans were entered in a coffee auction and surpassed everyone’s expectations.

The small crop of Geisha trees on the Esmeralda plantation had produced coffee beans with the now prized unique flavor and fragrance it has become known for.

The coffee authenticators were shocked and thrilled with the new variety.

two cups of coffee beans

The beans sold for $21 a pound!

(The average price of coffee at this auction is around $2 per pound.)

The news spread.

Esmeralda Geisha beans are now sought after by roasters all over the world.

But the capriciousness of the plant and the low yield has meant the demand outweighs the supply, and the price has continued to rise.

In 2013, the Panama's Geisha beans sold for $350 per pound, making them one of the most expensive coffees ever sold. Coffee connoisseurs believe that the exceptional characteristics of the cup is what justifies the price, and coffee buyers keep buying.

The continued success of the Esmeralda Geisha has convinced farms all over Panama to also cultivate the beans with varying success.

Although Geisha is still rare because of the difficulty of growing, this magical bean has become slightly easier to get a hold of.

Even with the regional success of the variety, the Esmeralda Plantation is still considered to be the cream of the crop.

Over the years, Batdorf and Bronson has had the extraordinary opportunity to buy Panama’s Esmeralda Geisha several times.

And although the batches have been small, our employees and customers have felt lucky to enjoy this rare bean.

several types of lattes

Each time the beans have produced exceptional coffee.

Let us know your thoughts on the elusive Esmeralda Geisha beans by leaving a comment below, on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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