What Is Geisha Coffee?

What is Geisha coffee? Sometimes called Gesha coffee, it is a type of coffee tree that originated in the Gori Gesha forest of Ethiopia. This high-price coffee is popular because of its unique honey, citrus, fruit, and floral flavor notes.

A cup of Geisha coffee - What is Geisha coffee
Geisha coffee originated in Ethiopia

Geisha coffee is one of the rarest varieties in the world, originating in Ethiopia but produced elsewhere. These coffee beans deliver some of the most complex flavors without adding frothed milk or sugar

The History of Geisha Coffee

The history of Geisha coffee starts with coffee trees from Ethiopia’s Gesha Forest, located near the Bench Maji zone. However, the most expensive and well-known beans now come from Panama. How did an Ethiopian rarity become a Panamanian claim to coffee fame?

Panama coffee plantation
Panama coffee plantation

Coffee growers first brought trees from Ethiopia to the Lyanmungo research station in Tanzania in the 1930s. In 1953, coffee growers brought trees from Tanzania to Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE) in Central America. By the 1960s, CATIE had distributed Geisha coffee trees throughout Panama after discovering its tolerance to coffee leaf rust and high altitudes.

However, it wasn’t until 2005 that Geisha coffee became well-known. The Peterson family of Boquete, Panama, entered Geisha into the Best of Panama competition and auction, where it sold for a record price of $803 a pound.  

It’s important to note that there are a variety of genetically distinct coffee trees that originate from the same area in Ethiopia that produces “Geisha coffee.” Coffee growers like the Gesha Village Coffee Estate or coffee growers from Costa Rica usually sell their Geisha coffee for far less than the Panamanian variety. However, they still feature exquisite floral, honey, and fruit notes.

If you’re looking for the famous Panamanian variety, you’ll want to ensure that it is a descendent of the T2722 plant. Whether the difference is worth the price is up to your personal tastes.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy our guide on what is a Japanese tea garden.

Factors That Make Geisha Coffee Expensive

Some factors contribute to geisha coffee’s extreme pricing. First, these beans produce an impressive cup of coffee, any way you brew it. Geisha coffee consistently scores high in competitions and coffee snobs around the world. It’s less acidic than other varieties and blends florals with honey and cocoa.

The other major factor in pricing is the process of growing the beans. These plants grow at high altitudes, meaning less effective photosynthesis. Growers need to pick beans at the ideal time to ensure they meet quality standards and deliver the unique flavor profile that made them famous.

geisha coffee cherries
Geisha grows at high altitudes

Coffee cherries used for geisha varieties are the ripest on the plants and are methodically inspected for quality. Some plantations embraced technology to inspect and select the best cherries for a more uniform batch.

Additionally, there is some level of prestige attached to geisha coffee. Growers and roasters can command more money for the cherries and beans because it is an award-winning coffee with a massive fan following. It’s also available in limited qualities, making it more exclusive than some other varieties.

Major coffee panels, including the Specialty Coffee Association, regularly score Panama’s geisha coffees well above the competition with scores of 90 out of 100 or higher. Thanks to the attention on the world stage, geisha coffee commands outrageous prices.  

Geisha coffee is so impressive and rare that buyers can expect to pay over $1,000 for one pound of beans! In Panama, you can spend around ten dollars per cup of Geisha, and that’s essentially a hometown discount for getting it at the source. Compared to elsewhere in the world, like $75 in California, ten dollars for a steaming mug of Geisha is a deal.

You might also be interested in our Luwak coffee guide. 

FAQs on What Is Geisha Coffee

Do you still have questions about geisha coffee? Perhaps these answers can clarify some things for you!

Is Geisha Coffee Arabica?

Yes. Geisha is a variety of Arabica, not Robusta.

What’s The Best Way To Brew Geisha Coffee?

It’s your preference, though it’s a good idea to clean your coffee maker beforehand to remove any remnants of other varieties. Also, try it without the milk or sugar to get the full experience.

If you liked this article check out Does Expensive Coffee Taste Better?


  • Cian Murray

    Cian Murray is an experienced writer and editor, who graduated from Cardiff University’s esteemed School of Journalism, Media and Culture. His work has been featured in both local and national media, and he has also produced content for multinational brands and agencies. Find Cian on muckrack.com.