Updated 2019, September the 24th
Whether you like it or not (why wouldn’t you?) Panama is the land of coffee, the heaven of coffee.
Panama is a country that produces quality over quantity (with less than 1% market share) and it’s up to date on farming and processing techniques from the picking to the processing (wet processing stations and dry mills) as well as transportation.
Panama produces mostly Arabica beans which grow in the Chiriquí highlands, in the surrounding area of Volcan Baru and in the least-known area of Renacimiento.
This country is known mostly for producing one of the finest Arabica in the world. It’s known especially for the Geisha varietal. The Plants have elongated coffee cherries as well as elongated leaves.
The cherries are picked by hand from Volcan Baru, the tallest mountain in Panama. The Cherries are then dried for eight days to reach approximately 10,5% of humidity ready to be sold.
About the name
Both Geisha or Gesha spelling is correct. It doesn’t make any difference because there isn’t any official translation from the Ethiopian dialect to English. It was first recorded with the spelling of “Geisha” but most of the people tend to pronounce it “Gesha” just because the plant came from the Gesha village. So, it just a matter of preference.
Panama Geisha Coffee
So, as I’ve just said, Geisha seems to has its origin from the Gesha village in Ethiopia and it was imported from Costa Rica around 80 years ago. Legend has it that a farmer from Don Pachi family brought some beans from Costa Rica to Panama because they were resistant to disease, especially the coffee leaf rust which is famous for having devastated several countries at that time.
This family still own a plantation in Boquete Region. Growing in the Boquete Region in the Province of Chiriquí, this bean has a light body, bright acidity and tea-like aroma (like jasmine and bergamot) but also fruity like strawberry and apricot with a peach-like aroma.
Geisha coffee owes his success to a unique weather which is characterized by different microclimates found nowhere else: the trees grow in high elevations (about 1200 to 2000 meters above sea level) in a volcanic soil with abundant rainfall, shade from trees and cool temperatures which are ideal for the growth of the beans.
The Geisha variety is a tall coffee tree with green or bronze leaves with a medium bean size. The tree starts producing coffee fruit from the fourth year. It doesn’t yield too much and it’s also susceptible to nematodes and CBD (coffee berry disease) and it’s quite tolerant to coffee leaf rust. It’s extremely delicate not only for these reasons but also because of its delicate branches. That’s why the farmers opt to diversify their crop with other varieties such as Typica, Bourbon and Caturra, to name a few. However, if grow properly, the Geisha variety produces outstanding coffee which is mostly used for coffee competition.
That’s why this Arabica varietal is always setting record after record regarding the auction selling price. In 2016 a Geisha of Esmeralda Ranch has been sold for $601 per pound in a lot of 100 pounds setting out the highest coffee price about green coffee. But just recently on 17 July, Elida Estate set a new record in the BoP (Best of Panama) auction, achieving a record of $1029 per lb of coffee.
Personally, nothing compared with the highly publicized (and mostly abused) Kopi Luwak, a coffee made from the faeces of the civet cat or the Black Ivory which is made from the poop of an elephant.
But back to the plant varietals, this country produces other arabica beans varying by growth and yielding, quality and resistant such as Pacamara, Typica, Bourbon, Yellow Catuai, Caturra, Pache, Mundo Novo and San Ramon.
All of these varietals grow at high elevations around 2000 meters above sea level. This allows the plants to have more time to ripen, resulting in a much more complex coffee cup.
Drinking a cup of geisha is a bucket list for any coffee lover, even if it will cost 20-30 pounds!
If you are interested in coffee producing countries don’t forget to read our post about Uganda
I am an Italian coffee lover that pushed for the love of this “amazing drug” decided to come to London to study about coffee and its different extraction procedures and tastes.