Friday, February 20, 2009

The Path of the Geisha

The next morning Rachel picked us up at 9am. The weather was the same crazy wind and rain, but that didn't matter, we had a goal. Up past the swollen, raging river, directly past the brand new hotel with its foundation ravaged by the recent floods, up in the mountains we sought the source of delicious coffee.

So delicious, in fact, that it is one of the most expensive coffees on the planet. The reason for that, of course, is a combination of unique flavor and extreme scarcity. Geisha coffee grows best in a very small zone and the owners of Hacienda Esmeralda were fortunate enough to both own that part of the Earth and to recognize that they had something special there. Cupping it on Thursday afternoon was amazing.

It was originally collected in Ethiopia in the early 1930s by various British expeditions. The coffee had a low yield, but it was resistant to fungus, so it was used for hybridization. The path seems to be: Ethiopia (1931), Kenya (1931-32), Tanzania (1936), Costa Rica (1953), Panama at some point after that where it was found growing on the Peterson's land.

The Petersons were wonderful hosts and it was very interesting to learn that in their 35 years on the farm they had tried to grow nearly everything and anything. They found that grass grew best and so they raised dairy cows. Later on they expanded to producing coffee. However, it was in 2003 when their son Daniel decided to harvest and process some of the wild coffee that grew on their steep hillsides that the geisha was rediscovered. The delicate flavors in those beans have transformed their lives.

It was incredible to stand on the hillside in the morning and see and touch and taste those cherries. The cherries were mildly sweet and the raw seed inside was larger than I expected. A few of the bushes were knocked over under the weight of down branches or from the wind and that was sad to see. The rain lashed us sideways and the wind was fierce but that didn't matter at all. I had made it to origin and that felt great.

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