mysteries of the geisha

no, not that kind of geisha
photo: Electravk/Getty Images

Until recently I had never heard of Geisha coffee, the hyper-expensive specialty beans grown in Latin America, often at very high altitude. The name is not related to the traditional Japanese entertainers, but the Gesha region of Ethiopia, where the bean originated before being taken to Latin America. You can fall down the historical rabbit hole of the name derivation and the “is it geisha or gesha” coffee nerd battle here.

I was talking with a colleague who is from Bolivia and the conversation turned to coffee. She told me her family back home has a coffee plantation that produces this super premium coffee in very small lots, which they sell to a very limited clientele of roasters around the world. The company, Takesi, has the highest elevation plantation in the world. Takesi sells in the US to Intelligentsia, and the beans sell out in fast order when they are available. I’m hoping to get a chance at some point to try it.

I thought again of this recently when I stumbled across this story from Australia. A café in Melbourne, ground zero for Oz coffee snobbery, is selling pour overs made with Geisha coffee from Panama, at an eye-watering A$198 (US$154) a cup.

I’m not going to judge the people who are popping out that much for a cuppa. I get it in terms of trying it once, but doing it regularly? Oof, tough sell. I once sprung for a cup of Kopi Luwak to see what it was like, though it wasn’t anywhere near that expensive a proposition, and some years ago before it became a totally crazy obsession I once paid $55 for a drink of Pappy Van Winkle 23 year old bourbon. I hate to tell people how to spend their money when it’s none of my business.

I think, were I so fortunate as to visit Melbourne again, I would be extremely tempted to give it a shot once but the price point is just too high a hurdle. I’d rather buy the beans if the price is more manageable, and because I get the feeling this guy in Melbourne is charging that price for marketing and not for a great coffee experience.

Hmm, maybe I need to start sucking up to my Bolivian friend.

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