Probably the most famed and sought after coffee cultivar nowadays. Geisha (or correctly gesha) was discovered in Abyssinia, south-western Ethiopia in 1931. In 2002, Daniel Peterson from Hacienda La Esmeralda found a few trees on his farm that were later discovered to be of gesha pedigree. How this varietal got to Jaramillo in Boquete, Panama is unclear; however, approximate historical chronology can be reconstructed: Ethiopia (1931), Kenya (1931-32), Tanzania (1936), Costa Rica (Don Pachi 1953-1963), Panama (?).
Since then the Esmeralda Especial became perhaps the most expensive and praised award-winning coffee, setting an online auction record in May 2007 when it sold for $130 a pound. The coffee won most of the competitions including Best of Panama (2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004), Coffee of the Year, Rainforest Alliance Cupping for Quality and many others.
Geisha trees grow so tall that sometimes a ladder is needed for picking the elongated cherries. To achieve the extraordinary cup profile (high sweetness, superior cleanliness, notes of berries, mandarin oranges, mango, papaya and distinct bergamot-like finish) the geisha trees need to be grown in extremely high elevations, e.g. Reserva de la Senora - 1,700 - 1,800 masl.
After the financial success of Esmeralda Especial, many Central American farmers decided to switch to geisha varietal, even in lower elevations. The outcome of this so called "geisha craze" will be seen in a few years.