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The geisha coffee varietal is an enigma in its own right. There are many high priced coffees in this world. Kopi Luwak, (*ahem* “cat poop coffee” – stay away), Jamaican Blue Mountain, Kona and a few others. But something sets a geisha coffee apart from the rest. Namely, the amazing taste. If you want substance AND taste, geisha coffee is the way to go.
You might remember from some of our other posts that there are many varietals of coffee – just like there are varietals of grapes. There are two main strains of coffee – arabica and robusta – but many varietals beyond that. Geisha coffee is certainly one of the most prized of these coffees and, in our opinion, the only one that is worth the extra money.
Geisha coffee is an original varietal that was found in the 1930’s in the mountainous southwestern town of Geisha, Ethiopia. It then traveled to Panama and became a staple in the coffee growing community. Panama is one of the most popular sources for geisha coffee. Geisha is also grown in Costa Rica, Ethiopia and other countries.
Like most coffees, geisha loves growing at high elevations. The higher elevation, the more it will improve in taste. After migrating from Ethiopia to Central America, coffee farmers in Panama started to cultivate this exotic coffee variety. What kind of variety could one coffee plant possibly have, you ask? Well, that is where the geisha coffee shines the most! Taking coffee conferences by storm and winning cupping competitions left and right.
Ok so we’ve talked about its background. Now it’s time to open up this monster palette wheel this bad boy has. Geisha has a good sweetness, clarity and sparkling flavor. Depending on the origin, those flavors can include mango, berry, guava, citrus, papaya, peach, jasmine, and pineapple. Which is a huge range of notes in a coffee cup! So it makes sense that geisha coffees have taken top honors at Cup of Excellence events around the world. Geisha coffee has certainly become been the mover and shaker on the coffee scene, as well as in all coffee championships worldwide.
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I love really rich, flavorful foods. Things that just blow your socks off when you taste them and the flavor stays with you even after you drink it or eat it. Occasionally, I love a really rich tasting pumpkin spice latte with whipped cream and sprinkles. It’s dessert in a cup and it’s got espresso. Awesome.
Most of the coffees that are marketed at large chain coffee shops (and even at fast food chains) are roasted super dark. They’ve been doing it that way for years and the market has definitely bought into it big time. The American coffee-buying public (myself included) has for years learned to like the strong, smoky taste of these coffees.
Coffee is made up of lots of different chemicals. Among those are sugars. As the roast gets darker and darker those sugars start to caramelize. Just like it does in a pan when you’re cooking. This is the reason for the caramel flavors in a lot of coffees like our Dark Roast Ethiopian. Past the point of caramelization, however, sugar starts to burn. And when sugar burns it’s a powerful flavor that overwhelms almost everything else around it.
We love our beans. We love the story that’s behind them and we love all of the subtleties that come out as we roast them. We want to treat them well (before we mash them up in our grinder) so you can extract just the right amount of coffee joy from them.
Our feeling is that once you get a coffee bean to that dark roast point you are missing the true flavors and distinctiveness of the individual beans. The blueberry in a Ethiopian Harrar is gone. The citrus flavor in a Kenyan is, well, toast. It all tastes like burnt sugar.
Quite simply – 85% of their business is flavored milk based drinks. Carmel, hazelnut, toffee nut, vanilla and more. Add some milk, whipped cream, and a couple of sprinkles and there’s no way you can taste the subtleties of a particular single origin coffee through all of those other flavors. In fact, if the coffee didn’t have as strong a flavor you wouldn’t taste it at all. It would taste more like a milk shake than a coffee drink.
As do I! I love lots of flavor. But I’ve learned that the flavor isn’t just in the darkness. The flavor comes from the farm – the location, the soil, the type of bean, what the weather was like this year. The flavor comes from the roast – if it’s carefully crafted and not burned. The flavor comes from proper brewing methods that extract just the right amount of coffee goodness before it gets bitter.
We’d like to challenge you – if you love really strong, dark coffees at the corner market, stop by sometime. We’ll brew up some of ours and put it right next to theirs – and we’ll give you a bag of whichever one you like better.