What is Gesha?
Simply put, Gesha is a variety (or sub-species) of coffee that is prized for its exceptional flavor profile. Varieties of coffee are similar to varieties of apples, in that each has its own history, flavors, and typical growing regions. What makes the Gesha variety so special is that its flavor profile is considered to be the most exquisite in all of coffee. Known for its beautiful jasmine aromas, delicate citrus acidity, and complex sweetness, Gesha is the most revered coffee in the world.
Until recently, Gesha has been relatively obscure. After its rediscovery in 2004, Gesha became one of the most sought-after and expensive coffees available – it even currently holds the record for the highest price ever earned at auction, at $1,029 per pound!
In the decade and a half since, coffee roasters have endeavored to source the most exceptional Geshas they can, and offer them as special releases to showcase how truly mesmerizing and awe-inspiring these aromas and flavors can be.
The History of Gesha
Until 2004, when Gesha was rediscovered, the history of Gesha was somewhat obscure. But, as a result of the newfound fascination with the variety, much effort was put into tracing it back to its roots; what we now know about the history of Gesha dates back almost a century.
The Gesha variety originates from Ethiopia’s Gori Gesha Forest (from which it derives its name). In the 1930s, samples of Gesha trees were collected and sent to a research station, and then subsequently sent to the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) in Costa Rica in 1953. At this time, Gesha was classified as T2722, and it was discovered to have a high tolerance to Leaf Rust – a disease that causes leaves to fall off coffee trees and thus reduce or eliminate the plant’s ability to photosynthesize light. Leaf Rust is a severe problem for many coffee farmers in Central America, so the discovery of this property was welcome. Gesha trees and other varieties were brought to Panama and distributed to various farms in the 1960s, where they would grow in relative obscurity for decades to follow.
One of the farms that received the Gesha variety was Hacienda La Esmeralda, located in the mountains of Boquete, Panama. In 2004, the farmers isolated the beans from some of their Gesha trees, tasted it, and found something they thought was special. They decided to submit the lot to the following year’s Best of Panama competition, where it would be evaluated & scored by an international jury, and subsequently auctioned off. When jury members – who included highly established veteran coffee tasters – tasted the coffee, they were immediately astounded by how phenomenal the quality was. That lot of coffee went on to score 95.6 out of 100 points – an incredibly high score at that level of competition. The coffee was then auctioned off for a record setting $20.10 per pound!
The coffee industry became fascinated with this “new”, unique, and exceptional variety – it even inspired journalist Michaela Weissman to write God in a Cup, a book which explored the nascent obsession with Gesha, and the Specialty Coffee industry. In the decade and a half since, coffee farms throughout Panama and Central America began offering their own Geshas; either by discovering they too had the variety growing on their farms, or by purchasing and planting new Gesha seedlings. One such farm is Finca Alto Jamarillo – a farm whose Gesha we’re proud to be offering this fall. Additionally, once the Ethiopian origins of Gesha became known, we’ve seen a resurgence of Gesha farming in its homeland, notably by Gesha Village Coffee Estate – another farm whose Gesha we’ll be offering at the end of the year.
Geshas have continued to set and break auction records: in 2017 a Gesha sold for $601 per pound; in 2018 for $803; and just this year a lot sold for an astounding $1,029!
Geshas have even become a staple of Barista and Brewers Cup competitions, often being the coffee of choice for baristi world wide for their award-winning competition routines.
In the Caffe
Without a doubt, the Gesha variety is one of, if not the most, superb varieties of coffee in the world. Roasters use Geshas as an opportunity to share how exquisite coffees can be, and to offer consumers truly memorable coffee experiences. Tasting a masterfully roasted and brewed Gesha can be incredibly eye-opening, and turn coffee drinkers into coffee lovers. Its delicate acidity, exceptional sweetness, and thought-provoking complexity make it a coffee that absolutely must be experienced and enjoyed.