The Origin of Geisha

Inside Gesha Forest

One of the most beautiful parts of being in the coffee industry is the magic and mystery that surrounds so much coffee history. And while we will never know if Kaldi’s goats really danced, we might be closer to finding out the truth behind coffee’s other great legend: the origin of the Geisha varietal.

The wild Gesha growing in Ethiopia outside of the town it gets its name from.

The wild Gesha growing in Ethiopia outside of the town it gets its name from.

 Willem Boot, whose coffee expertise is recognized internationally, has been working with Dr. Sarada Krishnan of the Denver Botanic Gardens to determine the exact location of the Geisha varietal’s origin, and they think they’ve now found an answer: it’s a remote Ethiopian forest that has escaped the rampant deforestation of the region.  From a press release issued by Boot Coffee Consulting: The objective of the research was to find the “mother source” of this unique coffee variety. Geisha has been breaking price records since 2004 and appears to be resistant against Coffee Leaf Rust.

Willem and Sarada conducting research into the origin of the Geisha varietal.

Willem and Sarada conducting research into the origin of the Geisha varietal.

“There has never been a coffee variety with the exotic and unparalleled taste of Geisha,” says Boot. “The flavor profile features a delicate floral aroma with notes of jasmine and rose, followed by an intense sweetness supporting an array of fruit notes (papaya, berries and currants).”

Gesha seeds.

Gesha seeds.

The research was conducted by comparing the DNA from Panama Geisha beans with beans from a forest near the town of Gesha, Ethiopia. “Ongoing research will focus on identifying possible resistance of these Ethiopian genotypes against Coffee Leaf Rust with the aim of developing future breeding programs for the creation of super quality rust resistant coffee varieties,” says Krishnan, citing the epidemic that has resulted in a loss of 40% of coffee crops in Central and South America in the past year alone.

PHOTOS FROM THE RESEARCH PROCESS

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About the Author

Sarah

Sarah Allen is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.