Knowing the Gesha

A couple of months ago when Peaches and I were in Costa Rica, we cupped a bunch of interesting new coffees that have been in development at La Minita. One, a washed Gesha, stood out because it had that distinctive floral note that’s inherent in a true, unadulterated Gesha coffee. I asked Jim where the seeds had come from for this plantation and he told me they got them in Panama from a reputable farm. It was a curious cup because so many Geshas have been produced over the years, but not many outside of Panama seem like actual, pure varieties. I’ve tasted a lot of them and bought a few. We’ve roasted some really amazing ones over the years. But as I circled the cupping table, I got the sense that this coffee was lacking depth and complexity. Jorge, the head cupper at La Minita, told me it’s because these trees are very young and just in early production, and that they will fill out and develop better aromatics as the plants age.

When I returned home, I noticed a Gesha natural on the offering sheet from La Minita. I asked for a sample and cupped it. So nice. This coffee was packed in vacuum-sealed bags, and had been sitting in the warehouse since the last harvest arrived in the U.S. I knew they were anxious to clear out their inventory and wouldn’t have many willing buyers for a coffee like this. So I negotiated the price down a tiny bit and asked them to cover the freight, and we ended up with a really sweet deal on this coffee. We launched it just before Easter and dubbed it “El Conejo Malo.”

Pricing is tricky. We’re one of the few coffee roasters to still sell coffee in one-pound increments. Most roasters have been selling 12-ounce bags of coffee at 16-ounce prices (in my opinion, preying on the fact that the general public doesn’t know how many ounces are in a pound). Some are now selling 10-ounce bags (what is that, a metric pound?) at 16-ounce prices. But it’s true, coffee costs have gone up. I use a formula:

[((cost+freight)/.85+4.5)x2)+sales tax]

So, if you’ve seen our coffee bean prices creep up, it’s with the market. Something like a Gesha is just going to cost more because of its unique cup profile and the demand for this famous variety. You’ve seen our Gesha prices go as high as $100+ for 200 grams of the precious bean. So I was pretty excited that we are able to sell a really nice Gesha at an accessible price. And in the end, we decided to package it in 12-ounce bags to keep the price at a stunning $24.

A sweet friend of mine from my home state of Illinois sent me a text message this morning saying, “The Easter bunny Gesha is divine. Thank you for sharing amazing coffee with the world!” And maybe it takes a certain type of person to recognize divinity in coffee. Because it sure can be a hard sell. This coffee has to be the best one on our shelves right now, and it’s less expensive than some truly crappy blends from popular-but-inept roasters around the country.

So what is it about a coffee that makes it palatable? In my opinion, the more you know about the variety, the farm, the processing, the people, the roaster, the history of coffee … the more you know, the more meaningful the coffee is in your cup. And the more you understand how to brew it – the difference in its aromatics when you brew it with 198˚F water versus 200˚F water, for example.

For some people, it’s obvious. For others, it’s all just coffee with different prices. But for all of us, the more you know, the better it is.

(For the Gesha: I recommend 198˚F, and learning who Price Peterson is.)