An Ethiopian Sensory Expedition

An Ethiopian Sensory Expedition

Last week, Gesha Village Coffee Estate in Ethiopia auctioned off 21 nanolots from its 2016/17 harvest.  Average scores for the best-scoring lots topped 91 points and prices were as high as $85 a pound.

Today we offer you the first two of four lots from the Gesha Village auction that we will release over the next few weeks.  One is washed and the other is natural, but both are Gesha 1931 varietals, both are from the Oma block of the farm and both are truly extraordinary.

The Variety: Gesha 1931

Varietal diversification in coffee is a thing.  Growers and roasters alike have come to understand that coffee genetics represent, together with environmental and management variables, a key determinant of flavor.  But it wasn’t always that way.  In fact, it is easy to forget that just 20 years ago, varietal diversification really wasn’t a thing in coffee.  Arguably no single moment was as pivotal in coffee’s understanding of the importance of variety than the emergence of Panamanian Geisha in 2004.

When Price, Rachel and Daniel Peterson stumbled onto a small stand of spindly coffee plants on their La Esmeralda estate that looked like nothing else on their farm (and tasted like nothing else on Earth), they rediscovered an ancient flavor set that traveled through time and space, with the help of some plant researchers, from Ethiopia to Panama.  The flavors in that coffee weren’t new, but the circumstances into which they were thrust were—a vibrant specialty coffee sector desperately seeking to push on the outer bounds of flavor.

The Geisha revolution set off a frenzied search for Geisha among coffee buyers and a primal pilgrimage to Ethiopia to find the source of that flavor.  The roads those buyers traveled converged in a wood in far western Ethiopia near a small town called Gesha in the forests where coffee was born and still grows wild.  Gesha 1931 is from this hallowed place.  Its name reflects the place and year it was collected by scientists who fanned out on a research expedition in Ethiopia to catalogue its coffee varieties.  It is the genetic forebear of Panamanian Geisha—the seed that started it all.

The Coffees: Washed and Natural

Both the washed and natural Gesha 1931 coffees are luminous, but the light they radiate is refracted differently through the prisms of two different post-harvest processes.

Washing coffee highlights the intrinsic flavor qualities of coffee with an emphasis on clarity and detail.  It is a process that allows coffee’s inner beauty to be experienced in high-definition, where the nuances and delicate taste attributes of the individual coffees are presented transparently.  

Our Gesha Village Washed Gesha 1931 Special Selection delivers exciting flavors that remind us of peach and sweet melon and complement the delicate floral notes that are a hallmark of the Gesha variety.

Natural coffees offer a much different character than their washed twins—they tend to taste more overtly fruity and sweet, in ways that we often associate with port wines.  Often the perceived acidity is diminished because the delicate organic acid tastes are overpowered by more dominant flavors that suggest red wines and dried cherries.  The aromatics are distinctly fruit-like and can be very intense.  Compared with washed coffees, naturals are like photographs that have been layered over with a vivid color filter, obscuring some detail while elevating the dramatic impact.

Our Gesha Village Natural Gesha 1931 Special Selection is more dramatic: mouthwatering berry and stone fruit flavors overflow in a juicy cocktail of a coffee that comes with a side of dried flowers. 

A Sensory Expedition

Back in 1931, intrepid researchers had to set off on a coffee expedition across the rugged highlands of Ethiopia to get their hands on Gesha.  Today, it is a little easier.  We have collaborated with our friends at Gesha Village to do most of the work for you.  In fact, you don’t have to leave your kitchen to go on a sensory expedition of your own.

When you brew these two coffees together, you taste the dazzling array of flavors created by an Ethiopian heirloom variety and two different, but equally meticulous, post-harvest processes. We want you to taste these coffees together so much that we are offering a screaming package deal: buy either one and get a $5 discount on the other.  Click here to buy these very special Gesha Village lots.  They won’t last long.

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About Gesha Village

By now, you probably know all about our friends Rachel Samuel and Adam Overton and their ambitious undertaking at Gesha Village, a coffee farm in the western highlands of Ethiopia near the forests were coffee was born that applying modern precision agriculture practices with a revival of ancient heirloom coffee varieties and traditional processing methods.  If not, you’re in luck — we recorded two podcasts last year that can get you up to speed quickly:

  • Our Vice President of Coffee and Ethiopia Green Coffee Buyer Geoff Watts explains here why Gesha Village is unlike any other place he has seen during more than 20 years in coffee.
  • Gesha Village owner Rachel Samuel explains here the circumstances that surrounded her return to her native Ethiopia and led her to put her work as a storyteller on hold to start a coffee farm.