By Karen Lickteig, Marketing & Sustainability Director
This Year’s Gesha Microlots Include a Special Treat We’re Calling “Blueberry Bliss”Every year we wait in eager anticipation as our fresh crop coffees roll in. One particular set of coffees we’ve come to really look forward to are the Gesha coffees from Finca San Jerónimo Miramar in Guatemala. In the past, we have sourced two different lots of washed process and honey process Gesha from this farm.
FIRST OF ALL: GEISHA OR GESHA?
OK, first things first: you may be wondering, is it geisha or Gesha? This varietal of coffee gets its name from its provenance in eastern Ethiopia, near the town of Gesha, where it is believed to have originated. But over time, as it made its way around the world, the name took on a new form and now both ways of spelling are widely used. When this cultivar’s seeds were introduced to Panama from a research station in Costa Rica, it was originally documented with the spelling Geisha. Thus, the spelling “Geisha” tends to be more common when the cultivar appears in Central and South America.
We previously used the word Geisha for this coffee, which appeared in our marketing and on our labels. This was mostly taking a cue from this particular coffee’s origin in Guatemala, where we tend to see the Geisha spelling on the farm’s organizational systems. However, given the confusion and harmful cultural insensitivity that can result from the word Geisha, we will now be calling this coffee Gesha. (See: Sprudge, “Stop Calling it Geisha Already”)
Gesha is the most prized cultivar in the specialty coffee world, selling for prices well above any other coffee. But what makes this highly-valued coffee so special?
HISTORY OF GESHA COFFEE
This heirloom cultivar has traveled through Tanzania, Kenya, and Costa Rica, but only started to become famous after landing in Panama in the 1960s. In 2004, Gesha coffee arrived on the world stage by winning the top prize at the Best of Panama (BOP) competition. Since then, Gesha has fetched the highest of coffee prices - often selling at over $100 per pound, and makes routine appearances at the high levels of brewing and barista competitions.
WHAT MAKES GESHA DIFFERENT?
Originally selected because of its resistance to certain forms of coffee leaf rust, or roya, this low-yielding plant is now prized for other characteristics in the cup. It is renowned for its quality, specifically relating to its sweetness, acidity, and floral tones. The Gesha plant itself has some features that make it distinct and identifiable apart from other coffee trees. It has a tall stature, and is characterized by its elongated leaves, oval structure of the bean and the strong perfumed floral scent of the blossoms.
Nossa Familia’s Director of Coffee, Rob Hoos, says that Gesha is so popular in specialty coffee because “it has a flavor profile that fulfills the sought-after flavor profile for people who work in and are heavily engaged in specialty coffee: sweet, bright, tea-like, and floral.” Indeed, expert cuppers often describe the notes of Gesha with a feast of the finest fruits, such as papaya, guava, citrus, berries, mango, and pineapple. Other common flavor notes include bergamot or Earl Grey, citrus peel, coffee cherry, honey, floral, and honeysuckle.
The fifth-generation coffee farmer at Finca San Jerónimo Miramar, draws parallels between good coffee and other fine foods: “Finding differences amongst different, similar wines can be difficult for someone getting acquainted with the art. It’s the same with chocolate and coffee! Gesha is just like that bold difference in a special wine that makes it stand out, with the coincidence that it is just a super pleasant taste! A symphony of flowers, citrus acidity and sweetness.” He also notes that it is often a struggle for a farm to present itself to specialty roasters, and Gesha cultivar helped open the door to the specialty realm for their farm.
WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND NOSSA FAMILIA COFFEE’S GESHA?
At Nossa Familia, we have sold Gesha coffees from both Colombia and Guatemala. This year, we are selling three different lots of the same Gesha coffee plants: a washed process lot, a honey process lot, and a special day lot we’re calling “Blueberry Bliss.”
This coffee comes from Finca San Jerónimo Miramar in the Atitlán region of Guatemala. The Gesha seed was a gift to the farm from a world-famous coffee researcher who visited several times and was impressed by their good work. He gave the Gesha seed to the farm administrator and told him to plant it on a special spot since it was a very special bean. They planted it high on the slopes of the Atitlán Volcano, at 1500 meters above sea level, on the El Ensayo lot, which means “Trial.” These magical beans helped the farm later on as an express ticket to the specialty coffee realm. The farm owner says they believe their Gesha has a fuller body and sweeter finish than most Geshas they have tried.
A Special Treat: About the 2020 Blueberry Bliss Gesha
Typically, due to the small quantities harvested and processed in a day, Finca San Jerónimo’s Gesha coffees are blended into different groups based on their processing method. In the past, we have offered both the washed and honey process microlots of Gesha coffee, which are actually multiple days of harvested coffee mixed together. Gesha coffee is usually picked over a series of days or weeks, processed and dried separately, and ultimately blended together to form these larger lots.
This year, when visiting Finca San Jerónimo Miramar in Guatemala, our Director of Coffee Rob Hoos says he was given “an amazing treat.” He shared with us:
We had an opportunity to taste “day lots” (coffee that was harvested and processed on one particular day). One of these lots tasted like pure blueberries and vanilla. We immediately recognized that this coffee was exceptional and asked that it be held from blending and sold to us as its own separate, special lot. Hence, a third, very limited Gesha coffee joins our lineup this year: the “Blueberry Bliss” Gesha. It is a day lot, honey-processed coffee that has an entrancing, unique flavor that can't be beat.
We hope that you have a chance to taste and enjoy these special coffees — they are certainly an experience not to be missed. The Blueberry Bliss Gesha is available for preorder now!