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Is it spelled Geisha or Gesha?

Posted by Nathaniel Fleming on

Gesha (or geisha) is currently the most popular coffee varietal there is, so why are there multiple ways to spell it?

The gesha varietal’s ancestry originates directly from the Gesha woreda (district) of the Keffa zone, a zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia. It’s a region of multiple nations, cultures, and some of the best coffee in the world, located in the rift valley; the birthplace of coffee (and humans).

The most popular gesha coffee is Panama Gesha, a distinct lineage of the gesha varietal that produces the most exceptional results. The story of how it now grows in the Central American country follows research centers, new names, and pioneers of agriculture.

The plant was collected from coffee forests in the 1930s from the Gesha woreda, near a mountain named Gesha in the SNNPR of Ethiopia. It was then sent to the Lyamungu research station in Tanzania, and then transplanted to the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE), a Central American agriculture research facility in Costa Rica. Here, the varietal was classified as T2722. Throughout its journey genetic recordings mostly spell it as “geisha”, although this spelling is from the phonetic translation of the Amharic word ጋሻ (Ge’ez script (Ethiopian written language) for the spelling of its original location of Gesha).

It was only until fairly recently, in the 1950s and 60s, that it was successfully cultivated in Central America, and renamed “Geisha”. Pioneer farms in Panama such as Hacienda La Esmeralda finally brought the exquisite coffee to the world’s stage by winning the Best of Panama competition with their gesha coffee back in 2004. Since then the popularity (and price) for Panama gesha coffee has only increased.

The Panama gesha varietal has now become the most sought-after varietal of coffee in the world. It’s known for its exquisite flavour, usually effervescently floral, with fresh, fruity sweetness, delicate acidity, and a magical black tea taste. Common tasting notes include bergamot, jasmine, orange zest, and peaches.

You could spell gesha either way you’d like, although the more widespread spelling of “geisha” may actually be a misnomer due to phonetic translation. After reading up on the etymology of this coffee varietal, we prefer the spelling of this coffee varietal as “Gesha”, not only because it inherits the local name of its origin, but also differentiates it from the english spelling of the female Japanese performance artist and entertainer, which is spelled “geisha”. Why create a homonym out of two completely different cultural origins that weren’t english to begin with?

How do you prefer to spell it, and what do you think about the translation from other languages?

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About Nathaniel Fleming

Write ✍️ Design 📐 Brew ☕ Barty Single Origin's resident Coffee Expert & Coffee Quality Assurance Officer. Nathaniel's understanding of coffee and culture comes from his international background of the United States, Australia, Europe, and Asia. His approach to sustainable design in the specialty coffee industry is driven by a biocentric perspective and a passion for excellent coffee. He is currently based in Sydney, Australia.


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