What Is Geisha Coffee? Why Is It So Expensive?

Vietnamese Coffee Exporter
Geisha Coffee

Geisha coffee, one of the most costly coffees globally, is witnessing an ever-growing demand with each passing day.

This renowned coffee, with its distinct flavor and reputation, has been drawing the attention of coffee enthusiasts everywhere. But does its quality justify its price? In this piece, we will delve into the roots of Geisha coffee, trace its ascent to fame, and explore the characteristics that contribute to its high value.

Diving Into Geisha Coffee

You might be curious about the origins of Geisha coffee. These coffee beans trace their roots back to Ethiopia, specifically the Gori Gesha forest. The coffee’s name comes from this region (the Gesha region), but due to a sequence of misconceptions, it adopted the name associated with historical female entertainers from Japan. Presently, both Gesha and Geisha are accepted terms for this coffee. Many coffee connoisseurs consider Geisha coffee beans as some of the highest-rated in the world.

In the 1950s, these beans made their journey from Ethiopia to Costa Rica, landing at the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center. Subsequently, they were transported to Panama, considered a potential new coffee type that the country could cultivate. Hacienda la Esmeralda was one of the farms that embraced these seeds.

Fast forward to 2004, this same farm showcased these coffee beans at that year’s Best of Panama coffee auction. They captivated the taste evaluators so much that their popularity surged almost instantly on a global scale. By the 2018 edition of the auction, these coffee beans were selling for a staggering $803 per pound. Nowadays, a cup of Geisha coffee can cost as much as $110, cementing its place as one of the world’s most expensive coffees.

The Taste Profile of Geisha Coffee

Geisha coffee beans are known for their unique floral notes and fruity flavor profile, which can fluctuate depending on their origin.

Willem Boot from Boot Coffee provides a vivid description of Geisha’s taste :
“It resembles a precious perfume, featuring notes of rose, jasmine, and bergamot. In the cup, it offers an extraordinary mix of delicate flavors with an unusual lingering aftertaste. You may detect hints of lime, honeysuckle, and papaya – it’s consistently incredibly fruit-forward. It might also have a touch of citrus, mango, papaya, guava, and numerous other exotic fruit flavors.”

Why is Geisha Coffee So Pricey?

The Panama Geisha coffee (also known as Panamanian Geisha coffee) is a specific variety often hailed as the world’s best Geisha coffee. It consistently achieves the highest scores among all competitors evaluated by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). The SCA employs a 100-point scoring system to assess the quality of coffee cups, with Geisha consistently scoring above 90.

But what factors contribute to Geisha’s high price? It demands unique cultivation conditions, boasts a mesmerizing aroma, and consistently receives exceptional ratings from experts.

Bo Thiara, a renowned coffee shop owner in San Francisco, succinctly explains this: “Much like wine, on a scale up to 100, this coffee achieved the highest rating ever,” Thiara said in an interview with ABC. He further highlighted the significance of the Best of Panama competition: “[It’s] like the Oscars for coffee.”

However, cultivating Gesha coffee isn’t a straightforward task. It requires a specific altitude, less efficient photosynthesis, and impeccable timing when harvesting the beans.

Hence, the stellar scores from the SCA coupled with its recent global success have contributed to the surge in this coffee’s value. Factor in the unique cultivation conditions and a fruity aroma unmatched by any other coffee, and it’s easy to see why this coffee type is considered so valuable.

Pricing of Geisha Coffee

Geisha coffee can reach up to $600 per pound, particularly if it’s purchased from the renowned Hacienda la Esmeralda.

You can find it priced as low as $9 per cup in Panama and $18 in certain coffee shops in New York. However, one San Francisco coffee shop recently exhausted its limited supply of “Elida Geisha 803” beans, selling them at $75 per cup (2).

Is the Price Justified?

Given the persistently high demand for this specialty coffee, a price reduction doesn’t seem likely in the near future. But is it worth the hefty price tag?

If you’re considering switching your daily coffee to Geisha, it may not be a cost-effective choice. However, if you’re looking to occasionally indulge in a unique, globally acclaimed flavor, then it could be worth it.

To put it into perspective, ask yourself if a bottle of Château Cheval Blanc is worth the price compared to your average grocery store wine. If you think it is, then you have your answer.

Final Reflections

While Geisha might be the most expensive coffee in the world, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s overrated. If you’re a coffee enthusiast, it’s definitely worth a try. Numerous factors contribute to its reputation as one of the best coffees in the world.