Nothing gets coffee geeks foaming at the mouth quite like the word, “gesha” (or, “geisha,” depending on who’s doing the spelling). If you’ve had gesha coffees before, you want more. If you haven’t had them, you’re jealous of the people who have. If you’re a party-pooper, you call them overhyped coffee-hipster beans as you reach for your nostalgically-correct can of Folgers crystals to stir into some tepid tap water. So, what the heck is gesha coffee and, more importantly, how does Oddly Correct’s taste, which is really what it’s all about (the headline is buried, deep, so skip a few paragraphs to get to the coffee review if you want!)? Here’s a link to buy the coffee if you just want to skip to the chase…
Oddly Correct is more or less my local coffee shop (in a city that is bursting with awesome roasters and shops!). I’ve been following them closely since the afternoon I had a little sample of their coffee served to me by owner, Gregory Kolsto, at little craft fair in Westport one random summer day about a year before they opened up their doors. I’m a fan of their coffee, I’m a fan of the guys who run the business, I like the cafe and I think they are doing good things for a part of the city that needs good things to be done for it. So, yeah, I’m a fanboy, deal with it. LOL
Oddly Correct is known for roasting unusual coffees, whether it’s a washed Ethiopian roasted so delicately that it you would think you were drinking an Earl Grey with a spritz of lemon or a single origin Kenyan on the espresso machine that’s like getting hit by a Mack truck. They direct all of their attention into getting something memorable from the coffee and finding the profile that speaks the most “correctly.” The cafe is set up for people to actually talk to one another and interact, the bags are from woodcut art drawn and carved by Greg and letterpressed one at a time on an ancient press in the roastery a couple doors down from the cafe and OC is Yelp-famous for not having a condiment bar in their establishment. So that’s Oddly Correct in a nutshell.
Gesha, or geisha, is the hot topic in coffee and has been for some years now. The gesha varietal was first identified growing wild in the forests near the town of Gesha, in Ethiopia. It seemed to be a hardy little plant but not real tasty or memorable. It was exported to Central and South America, probably to Costa Rica first and then to Panama and it was more or less forgotten there, but the conditions were just right to turn the humble gesha into a superstar. The famed Peterson family realized they had a bunch of gesha trees on their La Esmerelda farm in Panama and decided to pick and separate only the gesha cherries and see how they taste. Bam! They won the Cup of Excellence with the top lot that year and people went absolutely bananas for gesha coffees because after that, the price went through the roof on them.
Fast forward a handful of years to 2015 and geshas can be found everywhere from Allegro at Whole Foods for $14/bag to the top third-wave roasters for $75/4oz. Even the Peterson’s sell a very special reserve selection for ungodly amounts of money every year, and then a lower-grade gesha from the same farm. It’s all very confusing. For me, personally, I’ve not been a gesha-chaser for one simple fact… there is sooooo much awesome coffee readily available already in the $13-$18/bag range, why spend 2-5x the money on something that is not going to taste 2-5x better? One of these days I’ll write a whole post on that alone. Let’s talk about coffee, damnit!
So, first off, a disclaimer. A couple weeks ago I was at Oddly Correct buying some coffee for my Third Wave Wichteln recipient in Poland (man, I hope those bags get to him!) an Greg spotted me and gave me a bag of this coffee, roasted 12/3. So, a big thank you to Greg and his generosity!
This gesha is from Finca El Zapote in Acatenango, Guatemala. Not only is Guatemala not the first place you think of for gesha, but add to that the fact that it’s naturally processed (also unusual for gesha!) and you have a recipe for a different coffee, for sure. Oddly Correct didn’t get much of this coffee, splitting a bag with Onyx Coffee Lab, our pals in Arkansas, and ending up with just about 75 pounds of this coffee. Greg had visited Finca El Zapote in Feb. 2015 and had purchased the coffee, untasted and with a handshake as a contract AND with assurance that they would naturally process the coffee, something that is quite unusual in Guatemala. You can buy this coffee for a reasonable $30/8oz bag and it comes with a 7×12 woodcut print of farm owner, Julio Perez. The bag itself features a cool German Shepherd woodcut and is worthy of framing, itself.
The dry fragrance on the grounds smell a lot like a traditional Ethiopian natural, with all sorts of berries in the nose. Not much of that ends up in the cup, though. I brewed all my cups using my 1:15 ratio in a Gino dripper with Kalita 185 unbleached filters. I let the bloom go for close to a minute, then got about a 3:00 brew time, which is a little fast for what I’m used to, but didn’t seem to affect the cup poorly in the least. The aroma in the cup has lots of sweetness some florals and coconut, as weird as it sounds! None of the berries or ferment of a standard Ethiopian natural came through in the aroma, interestingly. It seemed to be a totally different cup from what I smelled in the dry fragrance.
This coffee is intense and has a lot of depth of flavor to it. It has a medium body with a lingering aftertaste and a sweet finish on my palate. The aftertaste had elements I couldn’t quite grasp, and when I read the tasting notes on the website and saw, “Fruit Stripe gum,” it clicked for me! LOL Sounds weird, but that was definitely going on in the aftertaste on this coffee. I also picked up some nice hints of bittersweet chocolate on the back end of the sip and into the aftertaste.
This coffee is sweet, as you’d expect for a natural. There are some berries in the flavor, but they are more subtle and less in-your-face than, say, the strawberries and blueberries you get in an Ethiopian natural. This was a more mature, less fermented and less overtly sweet berry flavor, more like a blackberry. There was a good level of tartness along with the sweetness to balance it out and that reminded me a bit of cranberry, both sweet but with enough acidity to keep it interesting. And, to round out the coffee, there is a nice bitterness to it that adds a lot of complexity and dimension to this coffee.
This is only the second gesha I’ve had, the first being a Costa Rican from Brick & Mortar Coffee in Springfield, MO. Don’t go into this coffee expecting that classic “La Esmerelda”/Panama gesha flavor profile of intense florals and tropical fruits because you won’t find that in this coffee and it could lead to disappointment. This El Zapote natural gesha has a lot to like on its own merit and Oddly Correct spent a lot of time dialing in a profile that works for it, which comes through delightfully in the cup. This isn’t a delicate flower of a coffee, but it’s also not a street-fighter. It’s different, complex and yet incredibly approachable and easy to enjoy. You’ll want to sit with this coffee and enjoy it through it’s full range of flavors, which is probably why this article ended up being so damn long!
Merry Christmas, I’m going to Star Wars now! 🙂