Everything You Need to Know About the Panama Geisha

The Panama Geisha coffee bean has an intriguing story of origin, matched in uniqueness by its unusual flavour profile. Taste the complex yet delicate floral and fruity notes of this coffee with its prominent hints of citrusy bergamot, and you’ll appreciate why it’s considered by connoisseurs to be in a class of its own. In fact, the discovery of the Geisha bean’s gourmet qualities around 2004 meant the elite Panama Cup competition had to create a brand-new category for the varietal.

The buzz around Panama Geisha upon its discovery, plus the record prices it was commanding at auction, soon led to a glut of lower-quality versions on the market. It’s confusing for a customer seeking Panama Geisha coffee to know which beans are the best, and which are just a poor imitation. That’s why at Difference Coffee, we source our Panama Geisha from Hacienda La Esmeralda, the estate that discovered and perfected the varietal.

We are one of just a handful of roasters granted access to Hacienda La Esmeralda’s highest-grade micro lots before they go to auction. Every season the estate produces typically no more than 50 lots of just a few hundred kilos each, and only a few of those star the highest quality Geisha beans of all. Our Panama Geisha is an extremely rare coffee indeed.

The Story of Panama Geisha Coffee

Before it became one of the most celebrated coffee beans of contemporary times, the Geisha varietal grew on coffee farms throughout the 20th century with little attention. Although it’s now associated almost exclusively with Panama, the bean’s origins are in Ethiopia, where it was gathered from the slopes of Mount Geisha (or Gesha) for export in the 1930s.

In the following decades, coffee farmers in Central and South America grew Geisha beans alongside other varietals without ever noting their uniqueness. It was only when a blight hit coffee plantations in Panama in the early 2000s that the Geisha bean stood out. Growers at the family-owned estate Hacienda La Esmeralda found that certain coffee plants – those yielding an elongated bean – survived the blight while other plants perished. They gathered these hardier specimens and set out to discover their secrets.

Panama Geisha and Hacienda La Esmeralda

Hacienda La Esmeralda’s experiment with the distinctive coffee beans, which turned out to be of the Geisha variety, sent waves through the coffee world. The estate started growing Geisha beans in exclusive micro-lots at high altitudes and discovered that the resulting coffee had a flavour and aroma unlike any coffee they’d tasted.

In 2004, Hacienda La Esmeralda entered its Geisha beans into the Best of Panama competition for the first time. They won the first prize, and at the subsequent auction fetched a record-setting price. The estate has repeated such achievements year after year, setting new records and winning dozens of prizes at the Best of Panama and other elite competitions.

Coffee growers across Panama have turned their attention to the Geisha bean, to the extent that it’s now universally known as Panama Geisha. The popularity of the varietal continues to grow as more and more coffee drinkers discover its unrivalled qualities.

Difference Coffee’s Panama Geisha

For our Panama Geisha coffee, we secure one of just a few dozen micro-lots graded in the 90-plus point range from Hacienda La Esmeralda, the legendary estate that discovered the beauty of the Geisha bean. Making such a rare coffee available in capsules for brewing at home allows you to experience the unique taste of Panama Geisha at its finest. To best appreciate its heady aroma, floral flavours and notes of bergamot, we recommend drinking this coffee without milk. If you’re ready to try it for yourself, please visit our coffee shop page.

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