Everybody is talking about the Geisha Coffee. It recently auctioned in the Best of Panama Competition for USD $111.5/Lb, which is probably the highest price ever paid for a coffee.
Geisha or Gesha is a varietal of the Arabica tree. It is recognised by its elongated coffee berries, compared to the normal and well known varietals like Catuai, but it’s more distinguished for its complex cup and outstanding flavours.
“Geisha coffee exhibits a subdued yet intense floral and jasmine-like aroma and a distinct though delicate acidity, balanced and bright with shimmers of white wine and notes of berries, mango, papaya, and mandarin oranges. The long aftertaste finish provides distinct bergamot-like notes.” (1)
This varietal was first discovered in Abyssinia in southwest Ethiopia in 1931, based on a document from Millor F., 1969 (2), seedlings were taken to Kenya (1931-32), Tanzania (1936), Costa Rica (1953) and finally in the 1960s, Francisco Serracin took the seeds from Costa Rica to Panama and founded Don Pachi Estate. ‘Don Pachi’ may be derived from the word ‘Don’, a common word in the agricultural Latin America; it’s used when referring to a landlord or out of respect to seniors, and ‘Pacho’ as the alias for Francisco. Because of its fame, Geisha trees are being cultivated in other countries, including Colombia and Costa Rica.
The Geisha variatal was never considered by coffee producing countries, because of its low yield. But now the industry is moving into new ground, where specialty coffee roasters are looking for quality. The Geisha is considered a delight and is part of a new demand for special micro-lots. Micro-lots are small seasonal harvests of a very special crop just like the Geisha, which sell for a much higher price than the one in the commodities market. The yearly production of these types of coffees are no more than two tonnes per year, and they are generally auctioned in competitions or events held by the specialty coffee associations of each country or by a world known entity called COE (Cup of Excellence).
As with the Geisha, all the micro-lots are completely traceable from lot number, to village or estate, and to farmer. They have total specifications of soil and cup. These coffees have to score more than eighty (80) points out of one hundred (100) based on the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) score scheme. These special yearly crops generally score more than 86 points. This year the Don Pachi Geisha cupped 89.15 points in the Best of Panama auction and was sold for USD $111.15/Lb; this is probably the highest price ever paid for a coffee.
If we add to this all the costs incurred in bringing this coffee to Australia, plus roasting and bagging, we would be looking at a figure of around AUS $375/kilo, only in costs.
This is evidence that coffee is moving to a more boutique or special market, where it’s not an everyday drink to wake up, but more of an exclusive product for those who appreciate quality and want to pay top dollar for it. I think coffee will be like spirits in the near future – where customers have the education to differentiate a 25-year-old malt Scotch Whisky to a lower quality one.
When we are talking about these special, boutique and micro-lot coffees, which have a considerably higher price compared to the market, we also need to consider the most appropriate ways of extracting the best flavours out of the coffee beans. Milk based coffees add other flavours to the beverage and can hide those that are particular to that coffee. As the industry moves to a higher quality coffee, people are experimenting with new ways and methods to drink coffee, to ensure the true nuances and flavour profiles are enjoyed from the high quality product they are buying.
For this reason, we are seeing the emergence of alternative brewing methods like Syphon, Pour Over, Cold Drip and Aero Press, among others. These filter like methods require a light roast, ensuring the flavour of the bean prevails. With these simple and clean ways of extracting coffee, moving from drinking espressos to filter is not a bad idea, based on the fact that you are using a good quality coffee and the appropriate roast and grind.
At Latorre and Dutch Coffee, we understand the importance of these new varietals and fine coffees, and we are expecting soon the first arrival of a micro-lot of Colombian Geisha.
1. SCAP (Specialty Coffee Association of Panama), www.scap-panama.com
2. Millor F., 1969, Inventory of the coffee varieties and selections imported into and growing within East-Africa, after Ethiopia