Panama Geisha: Full Guide to One of the World Best Coffee

While Panama is not among the world’s top coffee producers in the world, it has the most expensive coffee in the world, the Panama Geisha coffee. The Panama Geisha coffee has been the highest per-pound price coffee ever paid since 2004 and the buying craze in the high-end specialty coffee market continues in record-breaking fashion. In 2019, the Elida Geisha coffee from the Lamastus family’s Elida Estate in Panama sold for $1,029 per pound. 

Does Panama Have Good Coffee?

In 2019, Elida Geisha coffee sold for $1,029 per pound, which broke its own record of $803 per pound in 2018. The record of 2018 broke the earlier record set by the Hacienda La Esmeralda of $601 per pound for its La Esmeralda Geisha coffee. Quality has its price and the most expensive coffee in the world is the Panama Geisha Coffee. 

Panama is famous for its Geisha coffee, which is a type of Arabica coffee. This coffee is considered the highest quality of coffee in Panama. Its variety of Robusta coffee also received a high rating in terms of quality. Yes, Panama has good coffee, the most expensive coffee in the world for that matter, and we can only let its price speak for itself.

What Is Panama Geisha Coffee?

Panama Geisha coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world. It is a high-end coffee that grows in the highland areas of Panama. In 2019, the Elida Geisha coffee from the Lamastus family sold for $1,029 per pound.

The Panama Geisha coffee is brewed from the finest variety of Arabica beans known as Geisha which is grown in the Chiriquí highlands, in the adjoining region of Volcan Baru. Note that there are different genetic varieties of Geisha coffee plants, which originated in Ethiopia. The one in Panama is specifically descendent from T2722. This particular variety of Geisha bean produces an exceptionally high quality of coffee when the plants are meticulously taken care of at high altitudes. They are especially distinct for its gentle floriated scent that resembles jasmine and peach.

There are several Geisha producers in Panama. Each of them is unique on its own. Among the best producers of Geisha coffee beans in Panama are the Lamastus family, Hacienda La Esmeralda, Agricola, Maya, PVA Coffee Farm, Finca La Milagrosa, Gallardo, Altieri, and Janson Coffee far among many others.

Geisha Coffee trees grow tall and are distinctive for their stunning elongated leaves. When cultivated in high elevations, the quality of their coffee beans can radically be enhanced.

What Variety of Coffee Is the Panama Geisha?

There are more than a hundred different species of coffee. However, the three most popular species are Arabica, Robusta, and Liberica. Panama Geisha coffee is a variety of Arabica coffee. Arabica Coffee is known to be used for specialty coffee shops. Other popular varieties of Arabica included Blue Mountain, Benguet, Mocha, Maragogipe, Sagada, and Bourbon among many others. The Panama Geisha variety is a top-quality Arabica variety that only grows in high altitudes.

What Does Geisha Coffee Taste Like?

cup of coffee with beans

Taste is a highly subjective matter. The coffee has a unique sharp taste, flowery scent, and fruit-like zest, a mild degree of acidity and the perfect level of sweetness. The scintillating fruit like zest is another thing that makes the Panama Geisha unique. Depending on where it is produced or its origins, Geisha coffee can carry tang of a berry, peach, mango, guava, citrus, lime, jasmine, and pineapple, among others. Some coffee aficionados also claim a distinguishing bergamot oil essences and a smack of orange peel. Still, others recognize bizarre taste hint of vanilla and marshmallows. The diversity of taste offered by Geisha coffee is a major factor that makes the coffee rare and expensive.

What’s so special about the Geisha Coffee Beans?

Panama Geisha coffee is not expensive for no reason. What makes the Geisha Coffee Beans special is its unique and varying tastes which are unspeakable and best understood only if you get a sip of this rare coffee. There is no other coffee in the world which provides a diverse and captivating taste profile. Depending on its origins, the matter it is cultivated and process, the Geisha Coffee can taste differently. Among the common fruity flavors used to describe the coffee included mango, peach, bergamot, pineapple, and Jasmine. Thus, the Panama Geisha coffee beans offer coffee lovers a potentially different taste and experience to discover for every sip. 

Where Did Geisha Coffee Come From?

The Panama Geisha coffee originated from Ethiopia, specifically from the Gori Gesha forest. The name of the coffee was derived from the name of the place where it came from, the Gesha region.

The Geisha coffee bean variety was discovered by British colonial voyagers in the 1930s in southwest Ethiopia. They brought the seeds to research stations in Kenya and Tanzania, where it will eventually find its way to Panama. 

The coffee bean became a staple among farmers across Panama, which is why the Geisha coffee bean was associated with Panama even though the beans did not actually originate from Panama. The popularity of the coffee in Panama is partly attributed to its strong resistance to disease (i.e. leaf rust). When the Geisha beans became popular for making quality and amazing coffee, other countries like Costa Rica, Colombia and even Ethiopia, started cultivating the beans for coffee production. 

Similar to wine, Geisha coffee beans vary because of different climatic conditions and other environmental factors (e.g. geographical elevation, humid and oxygen level in the atmosphere). The Geisha variety in Panama is the best Geisha variety produced because of Panama’s unique environmental conditions, which also results in its diverse and unique flavor profiles. 

What’s the Difference Between GEISHA and GESHA Coffee?

Geisha coffee is the best Panama coffee and the most expensive coffee in the world. It is sometimes called Gesha coffee because it originated from the Gesha region in Ethiopia. Geisha is the Panama coffee while Gesha is a place in Ethiopia, where the Geisha coffee was discovered by British explorers.

There is no established standard whether the famous Panama Coffee should be called Geisha or Gesha. However, the term, “Geisha Coffee” is more popularly used to refer to the famous Panama Geisha Coffee. Some people suggest calling it Gesha coffee to prevent confusion with the Japanese Geisha, the traditional female entertainers. Geisha coffee from Ethiopia is more commonly marketed as “Gesha coffee” to emphasize the place where it came from.

How Are Panama Geisha Coffee Beans Roasted?

roasted coffee in roasting

The roasting and brewing process of Geisha coffee must be carefully performed to maintain its exclusive taste and quality. In general, it is advised that the Panama Coffee beans be lightly roasted to maintain its unique flavor and oil. Roasting it too much may potentially damage the taste. Moreover, the coffee should be filtered when brewing to preventing wastage especially considering its expensive price. As opposed to espresso, the Geisha coffee is best brewed as a filtered cup of coffee.

Geisha coffee is ideally prepared as black and pure coffee. That means it should be served without milk, sugar, foam or any other additional ingredients to enjoy its original taste without tarnishing its flavor. It has a naturally sweet flavor that contains the genuine fruity savor. It is further advised that the coffee be roasted as soon as it is delivered to authentically experience its popular flavor smacks.

Roasting the Geisha coffee bean would depend on different factors such as the temperature such as between 412°F – 433°F (211°C – 223°C). Roasting excessively can result in an unpleasant bitter aftertaste. The color of the beans should be checked to attain a certain brownness. Roasting comes in waves. Roasting is usually rested after the first crack. The type of roaster (air roaster) also affects its taste. You should grind the coffee carefully. The quality of taste can be compromised when it is ground too rough or too fine.

Filtered water should be used when brewing the coffee. Using mineral water or alkaline water can blemish the taste of the coffee. Finally, take your time when brewing the Geisha coffee. Brewing is like an art that takes time. Do not rush the roasting process by increasing the temperature. It is important to evenly roast all the beans. 

What Is the Harvesting Process of Panama Geisha Coffee Beans?

Harvesting the Geisha coffee bean cherry is meticulous and challenging. It is important to pick ripest coffee cherries, which is ultimately achieved through experience. Under-ripe Geisha cherries have not yet reached their full flavor potential and thus should be left unpicked. Each Geisha cherry is handpicked. It is manually done to ensure that only perfectly ripe cherries are selected. Underripe Geisha, cherries are removed and discarded.

It takes years for a Geisha coffee to fully ripen that’s why utmost care is given when picking. Attention to color, texture, size, and aroma is given when pickers choose what cherries to pick. 

How Are Panama Geisha Coffee Beans Roasted?

The method by which a Geisha coffee bean is processed has an impact on its flavor. Processing is performed to attain the flavors of the bean and to convert it from its original state, as a fruit seed. The process by which producers perform has an enduring effect on the coffee.

There are three basic methods for processing Geisha Coffee namely: Wet/ Washed method, natural method, Honey/ Semi-washed method.

The wet or washed method is the most popular processing method used by large-scale coffee producers. The process starts by placing the Geisha cherries in a container or water to segregate the ripe cherries and remove the unripe. The unripe cherries rise or float and are then removed. The denser ripe cherries are then placed in a series of vibrating machines to remove the pulp. When the specific layer of mucilage (viscous secretion or oil of the beans) is achieved, the beans are then fermented using natural enzymes. The coffee is then washed and dried in mechanical dryers or beds.

Natural Method. This process involved manually sorting ripe cherries and removing other matters (e.g. twigs, stones, leaves, etc.). The cherries are then spread to dry under the sun. The period of drying would depend on weather and humidity. The beans are constantly monitored to achieve the right dry and prevent over-drying, which can make a bean brittle, or get spoiled by germs.

Honey or Semi Washed Method. The process involves removing the pulp of the cherries without washing their mucilage. The beans can be fermented or not. After this, the beans are machine-dried for 10 days.

Why Has Geisha Gained Its Fame Only Recently?

While the Geisha Coffee has been grown in Panama since the 1960s, its popularity as the world’s best and most expensive coffee is relatively just recent. It gained world fame in 2004 when it bagged the first prize at the Best of Panama (BOP) coffee competition. The BOP started in 1997 by the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama (SCAP).

The competition involved a special internet auction among the best coffee beans from Panama. The beans that draw the highest auction win. The winning coffee in 2004 was the Geisha coffee from the Peterson family of Hacienda La Esmeralda which was sold at $21 per pound. Since then, the prices for specialty coffee from Panama continue to skyrocket.

After winning the BOP coffee competition in 2004, Geisha has started to become the standard coffee bean used in different barista competitions around the world. The Geisha coffee was reputed to blow judges away because of its distinct taste. Many coffee connoisseurs agree that Geisha coffee is truly the best coffee in the world.

Why Is Panama Geisha Coffee Better (and Even More Expensive of Kopi Luwak)

grinded coffee

Jokingly called cat poop coffee, the Kopi luwak or civet coffee is a popular coffee known for its rather exotic origins. The coffee beans used to make coffee come from partially digested cherries that were eaten and defecated by the Asian palm cat. While it is also an expensive coffee, the Geisha Coffee is better because of its more unique taste.

The Kopi Luwak Coffee gives a chocolate-like or caramel like-nutty flavor that is rich and delicious. While this is great, the flavor of the coffee can be artificially achieved by adding coffee or caramel in coffee. Moreover, the bizarre way of fermenting the Kopi Luwak without using cats can now also be synthetically achieved. In contrast, the Geisha coffee has varying fruit-like flavors and flowery aroma which cannot be artificially replicated.

Are All Geisha Coffee From Panama the Same?

Yes, and No, the Geisha coffee beans in Panama are the same species with different tastes. While all Geisha coffee beans in Panama are a descendant of the T2722 Geisha strain, they are nevertheless different from one another. The different cultivation practices, different areas where the coffee was planted such as elevation, soil, humidity, and atmosphere, the different processing methods used to prepare the coffee beans and other factors, can affect the flavor of the coffee beans. This results in the difference in the prices of the Geisha coffee beans from different farms or estates. 

Why Is Geisha Coffee So Expensive?

Geisha coffee is expensive for many reasons. First of all, it is voted as the best coffee by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), an international organization of coffee enthusiasts that embody different segments of the specialty coffee industry, from growers/ farms, producers, roasters, manufacturers, importers/exporters, and retailers. 

Secondly, it is rare. There are only several Geisha producers in Panama. The Panama Geisha coffee cannot be replicated in other countries because of the Geisha plant necessities precise cultivation conditions that are only found in Panama. With the threat of climate change and coffee rush disease, the production of the Geisha becomes more vulnerable. 

Thirdly, increasing demand with falling supply is driving its prices higher. The demand for Geisha coffee is especially growing in Asia e.g. China, which pushes its ever-increasing prices. 

Finally, the auction method of selling coffee has also effectively increased its price. Because of the limited supply, the buyer that offers the highest prices gets to purchase the best coffee which adds to its exclusivity.

How Much Does Geisha Coffee Cost?

In 2019, the Elida Geisha coffee sold for $1029 per pound. However, there are cheaper variants of Geisha coffee grown from other Panama farms, which sells less though a thousand dollars per pound. They are cheaper compared to the Elida Geisha coffee but still expensive compared to average Arabica coffees.

You can buy a cup of Geisha coffee in Panama for $9-12. In other countries, however, like the United States, Geisha coffee can cost as much as $75 per cup. In Dubai, which is a famous tourist destination for the rich and famous, a genuine Panama Geisha coffee can cost between $100 to 125 per cup. 

Where Can I Buy Geisha Coffee in Panama City?

man buys geisha coffee at the bar

You can buy authentic Geisha Coffee in Panama City. Here is a list of specialty coffee shops in Panama City where you can have a taste of the world’s most expensive coffee:

Café Unido. This is the largest chain of specialty coffee shops in Panama City. There are five branches of Café Unido namely Café Unido Le Mare in Planta Baja, Café Unido Calle 54 Este in Cul-De-Sac; Cafe Unido Casco Viejo; Cafe Unido Multiplaza ad Cafe Unido Town Centre. It offers different varieties of Geisha coffee including Elida Geisha. Other Geisha coffee offered in its cafes included La Harpia Geisha coffee and Geisha beans from Carmen Estate, among others.

Bajareque Coffee House. This pioneered the specialty coffee shop in Panama City. It is located in the old part of Panama City, Casco Viejo. It offers the famous Elida Geisha Coffee and other types of specialty coffees. It is located in Calle 1 near Platea. 

Leto Coffee Brew Bar. Coffee Brew Bar is another popular café where you can purchase Panama Geisha Coffee. It is managed by Venezuelan brothers Cesar Eduardo Bermejo and Cesar Andrés Bermejo, who are winners of the 2017 Barista and Brewers Cup Competitions.

It has two branches namely Leto Coffee Brew Bar San Francisco which is located in Plaza 76, Calle 76 San Francisco entrando por El Rey y Cremapan; and Leto Coffee Brew Bar Costa Del Esta which is located in Ave Costa Mar, Plaza The Corner, Local 8.

Aside from the Elida Geisha coffee, it also offers Aeropress, matcha latte, Chemex, cappuccino and siphon. Because it is operated by the best baristas, you can expect only the best coffee in the city.

Paddle Coffee. This is the newest specialty coffee shop in Panama City owned by the Bambito Estate, one of the popular coffee producers in Panama. It is operated by Manuel Barceló, who personally brews and makes the coffees for guests. It is located at 507 Business Center, Calle 65 Oeste, Panamá, Panama.

Where Can I Drink Geisha Coffee in the USA and Europe?

In 2019, there is only one specialty coffee shop in the US which successfully procured the Elida Geisha Coffee. This is the Klatch Coffee Roasters, which is located in the Bay Area in San Francisco, California. The Elida Geisha 803 coffee costs $75 for 18 grams (0.63 ounces).

The Elida Geisha coffee, however, will also be available in Café Unido in La Cosecha, a contemporary marketplace focusing on culinary items from Latin American. Café Unido is located at 1280 4TH Street NE Washington DC. The Café Unido branch in Washington is expected to open in 2019.

Earlier on Zeke’s Coffee, a popular local coffee roaster in Washington hosted coffee cuppings of Geisha Coffee in 2014. Zeke’s Coffee specializes in roasting organic and sustainable Arabica beans and known to create its own unique coffee blends.

In Europe, the Imbibe Coffee Roasters in Dublin, Ireland is selling the Geisha coffee through its coffee club. Finally, there is also the Bond St. Coffee located in North Laine, Brighton, which sells Geisha coffee.

You can always buy authentic Panama Geisha coffee online. However, this Geisha coffee is from other brands.

Can I Drink Panama Geisha Coffee in Starbucks?

No, you cannot get a Panama Geisha coffee in Starbucks. It is not available in Starbucks or any other popular chain of commercial cafes primarily because of the rarity of the coffee, the low supply in consideration of its demand and expensive price tag.

Aside from its meticulous cultivation, Geisha coffee is produced and sold only in specialty markets to maintain its exclusivity. It loses its novelty when it becomes available to commercial stores known to serve the masses.

For a brief period in 2014 however, Starbucks in selected branches in Japan used Panama Geisha bean to make its most premium coffee. In general, however, Starbucks prefers choosing cheaper coffee beans for its premium coffees. It also explains that the expensiveness of the coffee is primarily caused by the scarcity of its supply.

What Are Other Panama Coffee Brands?

While the Elida Geisha Coffee has a very limited supply, other Panama coffee brands can allow you to experience a taste of Geisha at much cheaper rates, which are nonetheless expensive. This includes the La Hacienda Esmeralda Geisha, Panama FST Washed Geisha Coffee Whole Beans, Teasia Coffee, Panama Boquete, Cafe Duran, Lavanta Coffee Roasters, Palo Alto Boquete Coffee, Volcanica Coffee, Cafe Indigo, Cafe Rogusta Panama and Panama Coffee Gold Reserve, among others. You can buy Geisha coffee from these brands online.

Is Geisha Coffee Grown in Other Countries?

coffee beans

Yes, the Geisha coffee bean is also produced by other countries aside from Panama. These countries included Costa Rica, Colombia, Guatemala, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil, and Ethiopia, where the Geisha beans originally came from. The Geisha coffees from these countries only cost a fraction compared to the Panama Geisha coffee.

However, it must be noted that the Geisha coffee from Panama is the best. It also has its unique flavor and blend. This is because of the distinctive cultivation and climatic conditions in growing the Panama Geisha coffee bean plant which is unique and exclusive to Panama. 

What Other Coffee Varieties Are Available in Panama Aside From Geisha?

Aside from the Panama Geisha, another coffee varietal from Panama that is the Pacamara. The Pacamara is regarded as high quality by the Speciality Coffee Association of Panama (SCAP) and is used in the Best of Panama Specialty coffee auction. This coffee varietal is created by the Salvadoran Institute for Coffee Research in 1958. It is a crossbreed of Pacas (Bourbon varietal) and the Maragogipe varietals.

What Is the Difference Between Geisha and Pacamara Coffee?

Geisha is a natural variety of the Arabica species. Pacamara is a cultivar or a coffee variety created artificially by humans. It is a hybrid of Pacas and the Maragogipe varietals.

The Geisha coffee bean plant is very delicate to environmental conditions and vulnerable to coffee diseases. It also has a very low yield. These factors add to the rarity and expensive cost of the coffee.

The Pacamara coffee plant is a compact plant that can tolerate rough climate conditions like strong winds, strong sunlight, and scarce water supply. It is also very resistant to coffee diseases and can easily adapt to different environmental conditions. It also produces high yields.

In terms of taste, Geisha coffee has a piercing floriated aroma and fruit-like flavors similar to berry, jasmine, mango, lime, and pineapple, among others. Pacamaras, on the other hand, has a graceful acidity with flavors that fluctuate from sugary nuances of butterscotch, cacao with fruity tinges of citrus, and berries.

Matt Romero

I’m Matthew Romero, one of the guys behind PanamaLifeInsider.com I am incredibly passionate about Panama, its beautiful territory, and all the incredible opportunities which offer to people coming here from all over the world both either visiting and settling. In this blog, I decided to share my passion with you!

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