Introduction by Chris Kornman
About 100km north of Colombia’s famed salsa dancing epicenter of Cali, one can find a collection of farms co-managed by brothers Luis and Rigoberto Herrera, the third generation in the family’s line of coffee growers. This Crown Jewel is an exemplary peaberry offering from their recent harvest of Geisha from the Buenos Aires farm.
Buenos Aires is not far from Cerro Azul, the source of a Crown Jewel Geisha selection from a prior harvest cycle, in Colombia’s Valle del Cauca (not to be confused with the separate department of Cauca, located immediately to the south). Valle del Cauca also shares a border with coffee-rich Tolima on the East and its western coast includes the port of Buenaventura through which a large quantity of the country’s coffee is exported.
The brothers’ fincas, collected under the Umbrella organization of Granja la Esperanza, are Cerro Azul, Las Margaritas, La Esperanza, Potosi, and Hawaii. Each farm uniquely exemplifies the innovation and stewardship undertaken by the brothers’ father, who first diversified their coffees to include Yellow and Red Bourbon, Caturra, and Typica back in 1945.
Rigoberto is a man who exudes humility, passion, and vast knowledge of cultivation, speaking with us in detail about the farm and why its unique microclimate is particularly suited to the cultivation of a fickle cultivar. After a year managing a coffee farm in Panama (and taking first place in that harvest’s Best of Panama competition), Rigoberto returned to his family’s farms with the coveted Panama Geisha seeds and began the work of continuing the spirit of the farms’ founders.
In addition to the wind and sun, the humidity and soil and elevation and so many other factors influencing the plants’ growth, there is also an impressive amount of attention paid to processing, including a zero-water depulping with an underwater fermentation stage that lasts between 18-20 hours. They actually perform taste evaluation on the fermentation before washing and drying to confirm the flavor profile, and the resulting coffee is unparalleled.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
Great coffee deserves a great story. The Geisha variety’s unlikely origin story begins somewhere close to the town of Gesha in remote western Ethiopia. Coffee berries were picked and transported to Kenya, then to Uganda and Tanzania, and finally across the ocean to the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center in Costa Rica where attempts to cultivate the trees earnestly began in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Planting there, and shortly thereafter in Panama, was largely abandoned due to low productivity and poor quality. It’s generally accepted today that the variety is fickle, and that its best attributes are highlighted by a combination of elevation, rainfall, soil and nutrient composition, and myriad other environmental and horticultural factors. It seems apparent that either early trials lacked the necessary conditions to produce the sweet, floral attributes now recognizably associated with Geisha, or that those attributes simply weren’t valued the way they are today. In any case, after the explosion into the specialty coffee scene in the mid-2000s, Geisha has been the twinkle of the coffee-buyer’s eye, and it is now widespread amongst growers trying their luck with the storied cultivar.
This particular Geisha, from Buenos Aires in Valle del Cauca is a peaberry, the adorable genetic flaw that results in an unsplit single seed inside the coffee cherry. It exhibits an exaggerated longberry seed type and shows much lower-than-average looking density for a high-altitude Colombia but stable moisture content. The screen size is precise – at over 80% screen 14 the seeds have a very small circumference and are almost twice as long as they are wide. While the consistency of size will help maintain an even heat distribution while roasting, the unusual shape of the beans is prone to scorching, so pay close attention to Jen’s roasting recommendations for best results!
Roast Analysis by Jen Apodaca
A very uniform coffee yields manicured results. My first roast was a typical fast and light roast to showcase the amazing floral quality that we come to expect from the Geisha cultivar and it did not disappoint. I usually recommend roasting Geishas similar to how you would roast an Ethiopian coffee, but to add a little extended time to make sure that the coffee is thoroughly roasted. The size and shape of the Geisha cultivar usually requires just a bit more time in the drum. I may be roasting a Geisha, but it is also a peaberry with a small screen size and a lower than normal density. So, I went against my natural inclination and roasted the second batch faster and to a lower end temperature. The results in the cup just a touch more vibrant and tart. The floral quality persisted in both roasts as the dominant flavor attribute. This coffee is absolutely delicious and easy to roast.
Roast one – jasmine, kiwi, grilled peach, and citrus blossoms
Roast two – jasmine, pear, grape soda, tootsie roll
Brew Analysis by Evan Gilman
Geisha coffees are always a pleasure to taste through, and the Colombia Trujillo Buenos Aires is no exception. Jen’s roasts showed us two different sides of this coffee, both of them pleasant. Roast one had dominant stone fruit notes like peach, plum, and cherry. Roast two had a clear pear-like malic acidity, and more caramelized sugar notes like butterscotch and fudge.
It was rather difficult for us to decide upon a favorite roast for this coffee! Do you prefer sweet caramelized sugars, or a clear and juicy fruit profile? There’s something for everyone here.