Geisha Coffee: The Varietal that Rocked the Coffee (and Aharon Vaknin’s) World
Aharon Vaknin does not do things halfway. If he is interested in something - and especially if he has a passion for something - he will put his whole heart, soul, body, mind, time and bank account into the endeavor.
Many roasters start out roasting in their kitchens, then move to the farmer’s market, then maybe a stand or a truck… and only years later, usually backed by investors, are they able open and sustain an actual retail and online store.
Not so with my husband.
Aharon in Panama
Almost a decade ago, Aharon– then a general contractor who simply LOVED coffee - decided he would fly to Panama to learn roasting with one of the world’s most esteemed coffee professionals (a man who would later become Aharon’s teacher, mentor, and dear beloved friend), Willem Boot. After a sleepless red eye flight from Los Angeles to Panama, followed by a confusing hour spent in a taxi, trying to navigate towards a café in the middle of Panama City during morning rush hour in a country whose language he did not speak, Aharon was ready to crack.
The plan was for Aharon to meet Willem – whom Aharon he had not yet met, but whom had accepted Aharon’s invitation to accompany him in his rental car from Panama City to Boquete, Panama, where Willem would be teaching a small group the art of roasting. The meeting point in Panama City was at Willem’s friend’s café, Bajareque, where they would share a coffee before making the long drive.
Aharon had called me from the taxi in an exhausted, near-panic. He was tired, he was starving, he didn’t understand Spanish and he couldn’t find the café. He told me he would call me back once he arrived, and I waited by the phone.
When he didn’t call me back, I called him. The man who picked up the phone was not the man I had last spoken to – yes, it was still my husband. But this man sounded happy, awake, and more alive than ever.
“BatSheva,” he told me, “we’re in trouble.”
Just before I had called him, Aharon had sipped from a cup of the most spectacular coffee he had ever even dreamed of tasting. It was Geisha coffee, grown, harvested and roasted by the Willem’s dear friend, the café owner Wilford Lamastus. That coffee had just set a record for its farm Elida Estate, selling in auction for something around $150/lb.
Many of you have read about the cup of coffee that changed my life. Well, this Geisha was the cup of coffee that changed Aharon’s life, for good.
Less than a year later, Aharon was roasting Geisha from Willem’s La Mula farm, along with other fantastic coffees from around the globe, and making history with our flagship cafe and roastery, Aharon Coffee & Roasting Co.
Brief History of Geisha
The Geisha varietal was discovered accidentally, in 2004, in Panama . Though it’s genetic makeup allowed coffee experts to trace its roots to Ethiopia (thought to be the birthplace of coffee), it was a varietal so twisted and strange and the flavor so transcendent – but unlike any other coffee the experts had ever tasted - that it almost was not allowed to be included in the prestigious Cup of Excellence Panamanian coffee competition. In the end, it was included, and Hacienda La Esmeralda Special made history with that Geisha entry, taking its top prize.
Geisha Coffee Today
All Geisha coffees are NOT equal. There are now lots everywhere cultivating Geisha, and much of the coffee is not given high scores by professional cuppers, nor is it roasted properly in order to highlight the exquisite notes unique to Geisha (named after the village in Ethiopia where it is thought to have originated from).
In 2020, a lot co-owned by Willem Boot took a record price at auction after winning the Cup of Excellence in Panama. It broke a world record, bringing in $1300.50/lb.
Geisha at Aharon Coffee & Roasting Co.
Here at Aharon Coffee & Roasting Co., in Beverly Hills 90212, we are proud to offer one of the only biodynamically grown, certified organic Geisha coffees in the world, roasted by Aharon himself. We have a direct trade relationship with the Equamite Farm where the Geisha is grown, and Aharon counts Gibran, the owner of the farm and biodynamic/best practices educator and supporter of several wonderful Mexican coffee farms, a dear friend.
We only ever have a limited supply of this magical microlot, but while it is available, we would love to share with all who appreciate transcendent coffee and coffee farming’s highest and best practices.