7 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 flavour 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 favourite brands that sell this elusive coffee variety.
At A Glance:
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 favourite coffee might be seasonal. Just see it as an opportunity to try new brands.
|Hayman Coffee Panama Geisha||
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|Passenger Divino Nino Gesha||
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|Passenger Montecarlos Gesha||
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|Volcanica Colombian Geisha||
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|Volcanica Costa Rica Geisha||
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|Lifeboost Nueva Granada Geisha||
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|Blue Bottle Panama Finca Deborah Echo Gesha||
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Hayman Coffee specialises 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 flavour 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.
Budget prices don’t apply to Geisha, but the Passenger Divino Nino Gehsa is thoroughly affordable compared to others you might come across. Prices tend to drop once you look at Geshas outside of Panama, so your specialty coffee experience is more accessible by exploring other regions.
Like much of the coffee in Colombia, this Geisha is grown on small farms by single families and later combined for sale. Divino Nino is a producer group of around 50 member farmers in Suaza, Huila. Huila isn’t one of the country’s biggest producing regions, but it’s known for producing exceptional coffee and has had a denomination of origin status since 2013 (1).
Passenger’s Gesha presents a slight twist on the traditional Geisha taste. The floral aromas are less pronounced, replaced by raspberry and wafer cookies. On the palate, you’ll still get the fruit-forward taste the variety is known for, with notes of melon and kiwi.
These beans are part of Passenger’s Education Lot selection, chosen to showcase unique or interesting growing regions, microclimates, processing methods, or plant genetics.
El Salvador may no longer be the coffee powerhouse that it was 50 years ago, but the small amount still grown here can be of very high quality. With rich volcanic soil and high-altitude farms, it’s an ideal environment for specialty beans.
The Montecarlos Estate is found in the Apenaca region, part of the country’s “Golden Coffee Belt”. The fifth-generation owner Carlos Batres only recently turned his hand to growing Geisha, using seeds obtained from Panama’s legendary Hacienda La Esmerelda.
These unique genetics and the high altitude growing (up to 5,900 feet) have produced a coffee with all the trademark qualities of Geisha. Notes of bergamot give it a distinct tea-like quality, combined with jasmine and honeysuckle aromas. Fruit comes through as flavours of strawberry, with tangerine notes developing as the cup cools.
Passenger sources both teas and coffees, so it’s perfect to represent this exceptional bean. The company is a Certified B Corporation, which refers to all-encompassing ethical and sustainable practices rather than individual certifications. This means ensuring an equitable and environmentally responsible supply chain and consideration of employees and local communities.
The Volcanica brand is well-known among coffee fans–and a favourite 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 coffees 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 flavours–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 flavours 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).
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 revolutionised 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.
Lifeboost Coffee has a slightly different selling point when it comes to coffee, focusing on getting the healthiest coffee beans possible. This means sourcing low acid beans for digestive health and third-party testing for toxins like pesticides, mycotoxins, and heavy metals.
Whether you’re interested in the health side or not, Lifeboost’s dedication to careful selection results in a range of high-quality beans that are as tasty as they are suitable for you.
We’re glad to say that clean coffee is not the brand’s only criteria. Lifeboost ensures that farmers use sustainable practices and are paid a sustainable price for their efforts. In this case, the growth has been done by the Nueva Granada Estate in the San Marco region of Guatemala. Johann Nottebohn, a third-generation coffee farmer, tends to 500 acres between the Tajumulco and Tacana volcanoes.
These have been hand-picked like the best Geisha beans, with around 15 passes on each tree to ensure the beans are picked at precisely the right time. They’re then honey processed on the same farm to bring out the coffee’s natural sweetness. Expect typical Geisha flavours of jasmine, bergamot, mango, and papaya, with a creamy finish on the palate.
If you’re going to spend big on any of the world’s best coffee beans, it might as well be a Panama Geisha coffee. These beans from Blue Bottle Coffee’s Exceedingly Rare collection will set you back a pretty penny, but as the company says, “modern life rarely grants us opportunities for awe”.
Hacienda La Esmeralda is still the best-known farm in the country for growing Geisha, but Finca Deborah could be hot on its tail. The estate is blessed with everything that Geisha needs to live up to its full potential. It’s found in the mountains of the Chiriqui region at elevations of 6,200 feet, making it one of the highest and most remote coffee farms in Panama. Plentiful rainfall and low temperatures complete the magic formula for successful Geisha growing.
The Finca Deborah commitment to exceptional coffee has led the owners to introduce Echo processing to the farm. Echo processing is also known as carbonic maceration and is more commonly used in winemaking (4). The beans are placed in stainless steel tanks that are pumped full of carbon dioxide, where they ferment slowly from the inside out. This produces bright, sweet coffees that often present berry flavours.
The effect of this process on the Finca Deborah Echo Gesha is seen in the coffee’s flavours that resemble strawberry jam and pink lemonade. On the nose, you’ll still get the jasmine notes that the variety is known for, along with sparkling citrus.
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 flavours 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 flavour profile that makes this bean special.
Geisha’s appeal as a coffee comes from its unique flavour 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 flavours 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 coffees 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 flavour 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/