Why Are Panama Geisha Coffee Beans So Expensive?

by TobyJun 18, 2021

If you’re a coffee connoisseur and have ever heard of Panama Geisha Coffee, but still not sure what all the hype is about, then this article is for you.

We’ll be covering everything about this type of coffee, from its history, to why it commands such a premium price, and also if it’s even worth it!

What is Geisha Coffee?

Geisha Coffee is a naturally mutated species in the Arabica family of coffee and originates from Ethiopia where it grew in the Gesha forest. Unfortunately, the name was misunderstood as “Geisha” which means “Japanese Entertainer”. The confusion resulted in many coffee companies falsely associating this type of coffee with Japanese culture.

Geisha coffee was discovered in the 1930s by British colonial expeditions in the south-west region of Ethiopia. Soon afterwards, the coffee beans were brought over to Kenya and Tanzania for further research.

In the 1950s, the coffee beans made their way from Ethiopia to Panama and eventually were brought to Costa Rica by the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center.

One of the first farms that took the Geisha coffee beans was Hacienda la Esmeralda. This family-owned company produces speciality coffee and is located in the Highlands of Boquete, which is in the South-West region of Panama.

In 2004, this farm introduced the Panama Geisha coffee beans to that years’ Best of Panama coffee auction. By 2018, these coffee beans were often being sold at the auction for $803 per pound (and sometimes higher), which equates to a whopping $110 per cup!

How Much Does Panama Geisha Coffee Cost Today?

Currently, Panama Geisha Coffee can be found priced up to $600 per pound, or in terms of cups, as low as $9 per cup in Panama and $18 in some New York coffee shops. Compared to bargain instant coffee at around $0.50 per cup, it’s not surprising that even the most discerning coffee lovers question its price.

Why is it so expensive?

Although the visually obvious cues of the coffee beans being slightly more elongated than others and disease resistant, other factors are behind the high price tag.

Geisha is not an easy variety to cultivate. In fact, it requires a specific altitude (ideally 1,450 to 1,700 meters above sea level), has a lower photosynthesis efficiency, and the hand-picked coffee beans need to be harvested at the right time. Once picked, the green beans need to be dried for 8 days before being shipped out or roasted.

Because of its price, many coffee drinkers who are keen to try Geisha Coffee or want to drink it more regularly, search for “cheap panama geisha coffee” or “cheap gesha coffee” on Google. The problem is that virtually all of these products are most likely far from genuinely being the best coffee you’re looking for.

Out of all of the coffee in the world, Geisha always scores above 90/100 by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), which is what gives it its reputation as one of the best coffees you can drink.

How Does Panama Geisha Coffee Taste?

Similar to wine, the taste can vary depending on where and when it was harvested, but overall, its connoisseurs saying that it has a smooth & silky texture with a complex tea-like flowery and fruity flavor, often with hints of exotic fruits such as citrus, guava, mango and papaya.

For best results, Geisha is brewed using filter methods like a Chemex. It’s not recommended to be used in an espresso machine which takes a negative toll on its flavour. In fact, the size of the ground coffee beans should be medium or medium-fine. The temperature of the water should ideally be around 97 degrees Celsius.

The Last Drop

Ultimately, even though Panama Geisha Coffee beans are still regarded as some of the best coffee beans in the world, this view can be subjective to different taste preferences, which is why we recommend trying it yourself rather than purely relying on reviews.

To get the best overall impression of the taste, make sure the coffee is from a certified source that guarantees quality and try a few different brands to get proper context of subtle differences between varieties.