While Kopi Luwak coffee has a reputation for being expensive, did you know the most expensive coffee in the world is Gesha coffee? In 2021, a natural Panamanian processed Gesha sold for $2500+ per pound, making it the most expensive coffee in the world. But what makes Gesha coffee so valuable? Read on to learn about Gesha coffee and what makes it so rare.
What is Gesha Coffee?
Gesha coffee is one of many varietals, or subspecies of coffee, that originates from the Gesha village in Ethiopia. The idea is similar to apple varieties like the Honeycrisp, Fuji, or Pink Lady. Coffee varietals are based on multiple factors including weather, climate, and growing region... Interestingly, in 1953, the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) brought the Gesha varietal to Costa Rica where the name was lost in translation with the traditional Japanese hostesses called “Geisha," If you want to become an expert on Geshas, read this blog.
What to look for when deciding what Gesha to try?
When deciding which Gesha to try, the most important thing to look for is how the coffee was processed. Just like with wine, the method in which the main fruit is processed affects what it will taste like in the end. Before you even look at the process method, reflect on what types of flavors you like to narrow down what’s best for you. For example, if you prefer lighter, brighter coffees, or darker, chocolatey blends. Here is a great blog to help you determine what flavor profile you enjoy most in coffee. Once you’ve figured that out, read on to determine which processing method is right for you.
How to choose the right Gesha for you
Some context: all coffees start with the coffee cherry which is a small, oval-shaped, red fruit that contains a seed (or what you are most familiar with–the coffee bean). The general coffee-making process is a combination of washing, drying, maybe fermenting, hulling, and sorting. Depending on how and when these steps take place impacts the resulting coffee flavor.
Natural processed coffee, or dry processed coffee, involves drying the entire coffee cherry with the seed inside. Ripe coffee cherries are picked and then laid out in the sun on drying beds for 3-6 weeks. Throughout that time the coffee cherries ferment. This is where the sugars from the cherry flesh surrounding the seed marinate the seeds creating a sweeter taste. Once completely dried, the pulp and the skin are removed from the seed via machine. As a result, the coffee beans are very sweet and often described as juicy or syrupy in flavor–like an explosion of fruit flavor!
Washed Geshas are the direct opposite of natural processed coffees. Washed coffees involve removing the cherry fruit from its seed at the start. Then the seed is washed with water to remove any remaining fruit residue or mucilage. Finally, the seeds are laid out on drying beds. Since the cherry fruit is removed early in the process, there is less time for the cherry fruit flavors to develop onto the seed. This results in coffee that is very light and often described as having a crystal clear, clean, and bright taste.
Honey-processed coffee is a blend between both natural and washed processing. It is quite a labor intensive and therefore less common than natural and washed coffees, producing a unique cup of coffee. In honey processing, the cherry fruit is removed at the beginning like washed coffee, but once removed the seeds and mucilage are then laid out in the sun to dry. The amount of mucilage left on the seed determines how sweet it is–more mucilage means more sweetness. Honey coffee is the happy medium between natural and washed coffees. They have a clean and syrupy sweet flavor, marrying the characteristics of their counterparts together. For more information on the different processing methods, check out this blog.
Now that you know what flavors each process method creates, here’s a helpful guide for Gesha coffee options based on tasting notes and processing methods.
What’s the best Gesha for you?
Naturally processed Geshas:
This award-winning coffee comes from a woman-led farm in Guatemala and is frequently selling out. It tastes sweet and juicy, like sipping a nice spring day. This is best for someone who enjoys fragrant aromas and fruity undertones.
- Key tasting notes: Floral, light caramel, watermelon
- Region: Acatenango Valley Guatemala
- From Aaron: “I got all three versions of the Santa Felisa Gesha and this natural process was the most complex and probably my favorite. Opening the box for the first time was the best coffee aroma experience of my life.”
Another award-winning coffee that has earned its reputation as the most expensive coffee out of Panama. The profile is complex with intensely sweet and clear flavors. This is a micro lot coffee, meaning that it’s made in small batches and that the producers are paid more for their labor.
- Key tasting notes: Black tea, pear, apple, floral, white sugar
- Region: Panama
- From Amanda: “I've been wanting to try Panama Geisha for a while and now I understand why Panama Geisha has a name for itself. Incredible sweetness and balance with all the delicate floral notes too. What a splurge! Can't afford to drink this everyday but will definitely buy more after this can.”
From the same coffee farm as the Santa Felisa Gesha, Natural Heap, this honey processed coffee is also award-winning for its floral aroma and sweet melon and caramel aftertaste. Perfect for those that enjoy a balanced cup of clean and sweet coffee.
- Key tasting notes: Melon, jasmine, caramel
- Region: Acatenango Valley Guatemala
- From Anna: “LOVE THIS HONEY PROCESSED GESHA. I saw an Instagram Live of the coffee farm behind this coffee during harvesting season, and WOW I'm blown away. Fruity + spicy + floral all at the same time. After tasting this I gifted it to more friends and family that are coffee snobs.”
This Gesha hails from Cafelumbus, a fourth-generation and women-led farm that has won Taza de Bronce for their coffees. The small farm sits at the highest altitude in the Antioquia region, which allows for not only healthier coffee trees, but optimal conditions for Gesha coffee (i.e. nutrients flowing into each coffee cherry and therefore creating a deliciously complex flavor profile). It uses a special lactic honey processing method that leads to one of the most unique coffee profiles around. Perfect for someone looking for a unique tasting cup with sweet and floral notes.
- Key tasting notes: Jasmine, honey, floral, milk chocolate, and mint, with a very clean and crisp body
- Region: Colombia Antioquia
- From Sam: “This gesha is not overwhelmingly floral -- just the right balance of sweet and floral notes. Good intro to tea-like Gesha coffee for beginners. I brew it on the V60 1:15 ratio, but also good for Chemex and Kalita. Comes in really nice packaging and the stickers on the box looks fancy. The hologram circular sticker on the inner bag makes a nice finishing touch. I like this coffee for myself but also want to gift to friends who are really into coffee. Good gift option to keep in mind.”
Fully washed processed Geshas:
From an award-winning farm in Guatemala, this washed Gesha coffee has sweet and fruity-tasting notes. Great for lovers of flavorful yet clean cups who enjoy a balance of sweet with a hint of bitter (think: stone fruits like peach or nectarine).
- Key tasting notes: Bergamot, apricot, lime, peach, cane sugar
- Region: Acatenango Valley Guatemala
- From Sebastian: “This coffee makes a wonderful cup. From the moment you open the bag until you sip the last drop and only the memory of its deliciously complex flavor lingers in your mouth, you can tell the care and love which was applied to the processing and roasting of this truly exceptional coffee.”
If you’re interested in trying to pick out flavor notes for yourself, read this thorough blog about how you can put your tastebuds to the test.
Sip and read more:
- Everything About Gesha Coffees
- Coffee Processing Methods
- What is a Q Grader and How Do You Become One?