6 Best Geisha Coffee Beans (AKA Gesha) for 2023
Geisha has undoubtedly attracted a lot of attention in recent years. As one of the most expensive coffees ever sold, this doesn’t come as a surprise. The rare beans are famous for their complex and unique flavor profile, but is it enough to justify the hype (and price)?
Our guide explains what you should expect from the best Geisha coffee beans and our favorite brands that sell this elusive coffee variety.
At A Glance:
- OUR TOP PICK: Hayman Coffee Panama Geisha
- FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS: Blue Bottle Costa Rica La Lia Gesha Ethiopia Black Honey
- BEST FOR YOU: Cafe Dutra Organic Microlot Geisha
Where to Buy Best Geisha Coffee Beans in 2023
More producers are getting on board with growing Geisha coffee, but these beans are still in reasonably short supply. These are our picks for the best Geisha coffee beans on the market right now, but be aware that the supply of your favorite coffee might be seasonal. Just see it as an opportunity to try new brands.
1. Hayman Coffee Panama Geisha – Best Overall
Hayman Coffee specializes in what you could consider the big names among coffee lovers and coffee snobs. Hawaiian Kona, Jamaica Blue Mountain, and Panama Geisha are all on offer.
This coffee has been sourced from prime Geisha territory in Panama’s Chiriqui district. The Hartmann Estate is a third-generation family farm in Santa Clara, growing Geisha at elevations of over 5,600 feet.
The result is a coffee that showcases exactly what this variety is known for: jasmine, mango, mandarin flavor notes, and delicate but bright acidity.
Like many smallholders, the Hartmann family doesn’t have official certifications, but they strive to grow their coffee with respect to the environment. The Geisha coffee plants are shade-grown alongside untouched native rainforest, with regular tree planting on the estate.
Hayman Coffee ships all beans on the day they are roasted, and you can select from either ground or whole beans. Alternatively, you can order green beans if you want to roast your own for the ultimate freshness. And while you might shudder to think of such a high-end coffee bean ending up in a Nespresso machine, you do have the option of coffee pods as well.
2. Bean & Bean Panama Janson Gesha – Budget Pick
Budget prices don’t apply to Geisha, but the Bean & Bean Panama Gesha is thoroughly affordable compared to others. It’s a nice way to treat yourself without totally breaking the bank, and Bean & Bean offers a “Buy more, save more” program for any coffee lovers who are as thirsty as they are thrifty.
The Janson Gesha lot is an award-winning coffee, taking first place in the Best of Panama awards in 2020. This comes as no surprise when you learn that Bean & Bean is owned by a mother-daughter team of certified Q Graders. They know good coffee!
This is a delicately flavored brew with notes of black tea, white sugar sweetness, and florals, plus subtle pear and green apple acidity. As with the Cafe Dutra Gesha, your coffee will be roasted to order so it arrives at peak freshness.
Bean & Bean cares about coffee from the farm to the cup. They use ethical sourcing practices and pay above Fairtrade prices for their specialty beans. They also donate a portion of profits to The Sloth Institute, which works to get those adorably slow creatures back into the wild.
3. Volcanica Guatemala Geisha – Best Tasting Beans
This Guatemala Geisha coffee is named after Gesha, an Ethiopian town that is also the origin of this coffee plant. It’s a rare find commercially as the coffee plant’s crop yield isn’t too successful. The coffee beans themselves are slim and long, plus they are naturally disease-resistant. This is one of many exported varieties of Geisha coffee that come from the original Ethiopian parent. Other varieties are present in Costa Rica, Columbia, Ethiopia, Panama, Peru, and Tanzania.
This coffee was grown at 5000 ft. It was de-pulped and fermented for 2 days to shed the cherry skin and mucilage, then it was dried on raised beds for 2 weeks following washed processing.
Like most Geisha coffee, this single origin Guatemala Geisha coffee from Volcanica is light-roasted to demonstrate the nuanced flavors and premium quality of the Kosher Certified beans themselves. Unlike most Geisha coffees, it has a low acidity. Enjoy sipping a deliciously sweet and smooth espresso with intense citric, lime, jasmine, and praline flavors with the characteristic floral note expected from Geisha beans. It works great as an Aeropress brew, too.
4. Volcanica Colombian Geisha – Best Light Roast
The Volcanica brand is well-known among coffee fans–and a favorite at Home Grounds–for its dedication to sourcing high-altitude coffees grown in volcanic soil. This Colombian Geisha joins Volcanica’s beans offering, including Jamaica Blue Mountain and Kona Peaberry.
Like most Geisha coffee beans grown in Colombia, these beans come from the Huila region of the country. This mountainous area supports farms at 3,900-5,900 feet, benefiting from the nitrogen-rich volcanic soil. The microclimates here produce coffee known for a delicate profile and sweet fruit flavors–ideally in line with the classic Geisha variety taste.
[Huila coffee] has a brighter acidity and fruit notes. It is a complex coffee…
Volcanica’s Colombia Geisha beans offer a good balance of acidity and sweetness, with flavors of tropical fruits and a floral character. They’ve been grown on micro-lots in different areas around Huila by coffee farmers that form part of the Huila Milagros collective. After harvesting, these beans have been double wash-processed to bring out a more complex taste and ensure that the beans are all of the highest quality (2).
5. Volcanica Costa Rica Geisha – Best Value for Money
The Volcanica brand started by sourcing the best beans from Costa Rica, so it’s safe to say that they know a thing or two about creating sustainable relationships with local farmers.
The Costa Rican coffee industry has been revolutionized in the last decade with the rise of micro mills. Micro mills cater to single families or small groups of farmers, allowing them to fetch higher prices at the market and engage in sustainable or experimental growing practices (3). The first of these mills in Costa Rica was La Candelilla, where these delightful Geisha beans have been sourced.
La Candelilla consists of a range of different farms owned by seven siblings of the Hernandez family. The farms are nested in the Talamanca Mountains in the Tarrazu region, where the climate is perfect for Caturra, Catuai, and now Geisha.
Volcanica Costa Rica Geisha has the variety’s typical floral characteristics, with the sweetness and acidity shining through in a crisp apple taste.
6. Cafe Dutra Organic Microlot Geisha – Best Low Acid
Geisha coffees are difficult for anyone with digestive sensitivities because their acidity is often touted as a flavorful selling point, and they are given a light roast to maintain that brightness. If you find yourself prone to acid reflux, we recommend this medium roast from Cafe Dutra. It maintains the complexity of the Geisha beans in a smoother, more easily drinkable package.
This certified organic microlot coffee is sourced from a single family farm in the Matas de Minas region of Brazil. Brazil is an unusual origin for Geisha, and this organic brew is a testament to the commitment of the family to grown only the best organic coffee.
Cafe Dutra Geisha is sweeter than most others on this list due to its low acidity. The dominant flavor notes are caramel, honey, and the floral jasmine that characterizes many Geisha beans. Importantly, especially when buying specialty coffee from Amazon, every bag of Cafe Dutra coffee is roasted to order. So you know it will arrive as fresh and flavorful as possible.
How to Choose the Best Geisha (Gesha) Coffee Beans
Treating yourself to best Geisha coffee is not a cheap undertaking, so how do you know you’re getting what you pay for? Unlike some other sought-after varieties, there’s no official certification guaranteeing what is Geisha and what is fake, but here are a few things to consider when shopping for your beans.
Country of origin
Without a doubt, Panama is the place to be when growing Geisha. This is where Geisha’s fame kicked off, and the country continues to be the gold standard for this variety. This is partly due to Panama’s growing conditions and partly because plants grown here are a specific and unique subtype of Geisha.
The best-known area is the region of Chiriqui on the country’s western border. On the slopes of Volcan Baru, you’ll find the famed town of Boquete and the now legendary Hacienda La Esmerelda coffee farm run by the Peterson family.
Due to the sky-high prices and relative scarcity of Panama Geisha, it’s not always so easy to get your hands on. Fortunately, to equally high standards, Panama is no longer the only place where Geisha is grown – the variety is now being produced in other countries.
The growing conditions that make Costa Rican coffee so highly regarded across the border to the north serve equally well for Geisha plants. Geisha coffee from the Tarrazu region now dominates the Costa Rican Cup of Excellence Awards. Those grown in the Brunca and Valle Occidental areas also get the occasional look-in (5).
Ethiopia is only recently reclaiming the Geisha (or Gesha) variety, with farms around the town of Gesha now reintroducing this Arabica coffee strain. The variety is thriving in its native habitat, making its way to the Cup of Excellence in 2021. Elsewhere in Africa, you’ll find high-scoring coffee coming out of Tanzania and even some Geisha growing on small farms in Malawi.
More than any other coffee, good quality Geisha relies on growing it at high altitudes. One of the reasons that Geisha took so long to emerge as a prized coffee is that low-grown beans presented no unique characteristics. So even if what you are buying is authentic Geisha coffee in terms of genetics, the quality and taste will depend on elevation.
Look for lots grown at upwards of 5,500 feet, but the higher, the better. If the coffee you’re buying doesn’t indicate the altitude, or at least the name of the farm so that you can look it up, you could be paying for the good stuff but not getting the flavors that make this bean unique.
While there are great coffees to be had for all budgets, in the case of Geisha, the price should give you an indication of quality. It’s not to say that the most expensive is the best, but seeing Geisha at a bargain price should be something of a red flag.
Geisha is a unique coffee that’s more of an experience than an everyday brew, and the price should reflect that.
A cheap Geisha might be grown at low altitudes, which won’t have the same flavor profile that makes this bean special.
Geisha’s appeal as a coffee comes from its unique flavor profile. While other coffees grown in the area tend to be full-bodied with berry or chocolate notes, Geisha has a light fruit and floral profile that many describe as being almost tea-like.
Most people who taste it, regardless of whether they’re big coffee enthusiasts… have been able to tell there’s something special about it.
This is where the variety’s heritage becomes obvious–many Ethiopian coffees share these same delicate floral notes. It’s said that during the now-famed Best of Panama competition in 2004, one judge thought an Ethiopian coffee had been added to the table by mistake (6).
Specific flavors of Geisha will vary from country to country and even from farm to farm. You should expect it to be very fruit-forward with a floral aroma and balanced acidity. Depending on your beans, your brewed coffee might have hints of fruits like papaya, mango, or peach, with the aromas of bergamot, jasmine, or honeysuckle.
The best Geisha coffee beans are no longer limited to Panama. As long as you buy from a reputable supplier (and are prepared to pay the premium price) you should have an enjoyable experience with this unique tasting bean. Our pick goes to Hayman Panama Geisha coffee beans for their true-to-type flavor profile, guaranteed freshness, and wide range of options. Hayman is also a member of the Specialty Coffee Association, long considered the ultimate authority on coffee excellence.
Geisha became the most expensive coffee in the world in 2019 when a lot from Panama’s Elida Estate sold for $1,029 per pound (7). Some of the other most expensive coffee beans include particular lots of Opsina coffee from Colombia and kopi luwak (civet coffee) beans.
You brew Geisha coffee by following the best practices for any coffee brewing. Grind your beans right before brewing with a good burr grinder, use the right ratio of coffee to water for your brewer, and use filtered water or bottled water at between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
Geisha coffee is expensive due to the variety’s rarity and quality. Geisha was only introduced to the market in 2004, and production costs can be high, so the supply of the beans is still minimal. Geishas grown in the right conditions score consistently well, often topping the tables at the Cup of Excellence, which only increases demand. As more farmers plant this crop, supply will increase, and there may be some drop in prices.
The best roast for Geisha coffees is light or medium, as it preserves the integrity of the delicate Geisha coffee taste. Dark roasted beans tend to have more pronounced nutty, earthy, and even smoky flavors, which are at odds with the natural taste of Geisha coffee.
- Regional Denomination of Origin. (2020, February 21). Retrieved from https://www.cafedecolombia.com/particulares/denominacion-de-origen-regional/
- Cook, A. (2020, October 08). Double Washed: The Burundian Way – Kaffeeklatsch Ed. 4 • Nates Coffee. Retrieved from https://natescoffee.com/double-washed/
- All About Coffee from Costa Rica. (2020, November 10). Retrieved from https://blog.bluebottlecoffee.com/posts/costa-rica-an-origin-of-micromills
- Pavoni, M. (2021, November 25). Coffee Processing: What Is Carbonic Maceration? Retrieved from https://mtpak.coffee/2021/03/coffee-trends-carbonic-maceration/
- Costa Rica 2021. (2022, January 04). Retrieved from https://allianceforcoffeeexcellence.org/costa-rica-2021/
- Ryan, C. (2018, February 17). The Rise of Gesha: Getting to Know the Famed Coffee Variety. Retrieved from https://www.baristamagazine.com/rise-gesha/
- Repanich, J. (2019, July 24). The World Record for Most Expensive Coffee Sold Was Just Shattered. Retrieved from https://robbreport.com/food-drink/dining/world-record-coffee-sold-panama-gesha-elida-estate-2859497/