Brian Beyke

Kuma Coffee - Carmen Geisha - Boquete, Panama

Brian Beyke
Kuma Coffee - Carmen Geisha - Boquete, Panama

It is still pretty embarrassing to me that I’ve only shared in four Kuma Coffee offerings this year aside from the holiday wash process packages.  It has even been a few months since I made remarks very similar to this when talking about the Aramo Woreda Ethiopia.  I’ve been learning about so many new roasters, new regions, and it has caused me to be led astray from one of my absolute favorite roasters, which is funny because I am sitting on several of their offerings I am really dying to pull the trigger on as we speak.  That being said, there is one offering I knew I simply could not miss buying- a Kuma geisha roast.  While last year we had a delightful offering from La Esmeralda, this year we have an exciting and rather new lot to geisha production.  Let’s get into Kuma’s Carmen Geisha Panama.

Today, most people associate the Geisha cultivar with Panama, and over the last 10 years the most exquisite examples of this coffee have indeed come from there. The Geisha varietal  was actually discovered in Ethiopia in the 1930s, in the mountains around the town of Geisha. Between 1930-1950, the Geisha tree was experimentally planted in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. It wasn’t until after 1950 that this unique tree made its way across the Atlantic to Costa Rica’s CATIE coffee research center. About 10 years later, these high elevation loving, sparsely foliated trees found their way to the Boquete region of Panama.

From the 1960s to 2004, this tree languished in relative obscurity. Efforts to grow the cultivar at lower elevations produced a terrible tasting coffee. Some trees survived on farms in Costa Rica and Panama, but the cherries were picked and the seeds mixed into the rest of the harvest, so the distinctive Geisha profile was lost.

In 2004, a little known farm in Panama isolated their Geisha production and entered the resulting coffee in the Best of Panama competition. The farm, Hacienda La Esmeralda, won the competition handily. The judges were blown away by the complex yet subtle coffee, and the Geisha varietal became set to take the coffee world by storm.

Since 2004, the winning Geishas in this competition have commanded steep prices.  In 2004, the winning lot of Hacienda La Esmeralda Jaramillo Especial auctioned for about $20/lb (for the green, or unroasted, beans!!). In 2010, the winning bid for the first place Esmeralda Especial was $170/lb (again, this if for the unroasted coffee!!)  The price has fluctuated some in the last few years, but $50-$80 is about the average, making the Geisha varietal one of the most expensive coffees in the world.

Carlos Aguilera planted Geisha coffee on his farm over 5-6 years ago. This is the first year that the Geisha trees were able to produce enough cherries to mill and make a small 500-600lb lot. Kuma was able to grab 100lbs of this stellar lot that placed 4th best Geisha out of the entire “Best of Panama 2014” competition.


Roaster: Kuma Coffee

Region: Boquete, Panama

Farmer: Carlos Aguilera

Process: Washed

Varietal: Geisha

Elevation: 1,800m

Brew Method:

Kalita Wave | 34g © to 552g (w) | 3:45 total time | 201 degrees | TDS | % Ext.

The nose is a thing of beauty.  Raspberry, melon, sugar, florals.

The cup is wonderfully articulate- soft, sweet, and intricately layered. It certainly is lively, the first flavors you come to are the complex citrus layers, a combination of lemon, tangerine, and candied lime. In that, you find lingering florals- lavender and jasmine that linger on atop a bed lightly sweetened with honey.  The finish is a bit dry, but also a bit effervescent.

The cup, while delicate, gives up some raspberry/strawberry reduction that gives depth, but isn’t quite syrupy or dense in body (which is good).  As it opens further, you find a similar raspberry note as you would in the Idido or Kochere we’ve visited, with confectioner’s sugar like Frosted Flakes.  The difference with those other offerings, is this cup gives so much balance between the citrus notes, plush creaminess, fruits, and lingering florals.  With that, there is just so much more complexity going on- butteriness, creaminess, honey-coating.  

The cup, as it cools, is such a lovely presentation.  Bright and lively citrus acidity, raspberry, kiwi, and succulent watermelon sweetness, tangled floral and herbal notes, and a finish that mingles creaminess, hints of dark chocolate, and grapefruit.


Brew Method:

V60 no stir | 14g © to 228g (w) | 1:55 total time | 200 degrees | 1.29 TDS | 19.50% Ext.

Mmm. This cup no doubt is geisha, but it begins a little lighter than I’d prefer.

The cup is soft, sugary, bright, and sweet.  It is poetic how it enters with candy-like orange citrus notes, then switches over to raspberry, watermelon, kiwi, and other fruit plump full of sweet juiciness, in the end, you have light cocoa notes at play with pleasant florals and a slightly drying tea-like finish, with lingering sweetness and a resurgence of citrus.  

The cup grows brighter, sharp tangerine on the front (so sharp that it almost comes across salty) and then a saturated berry center. The finish starts ending more syrupy, palpable, and melting with sweetness over the tongue- slightly wine-soaked and still as bright lingering as the front.

Complex, sweet, tangerine brightness, lovely florals.  


Brew Method:

Chemex | 30g © to 481g (w) | 3:45 total time | 200 degrees | 1.32 TDS | 19.58% Ext.

Man, what a balanced cup.  There are bright citrus notes on the front, but they aren’t as attacking as have felt in some other makes.  Delicious, succulent, dense raspberry and melon sweetness all but drips out of the mouth, plush, poetic, with sweet lemon carrying to the finish and ending with trails of florals swirling around.

It grows such a dense sweetness in the end, like nougat and caramel- chewy and lightly weight, really impressive in mouthfeel.  In the middle of the cup, if it weren’t for the more prominent raspberry note, I’d almost think I was eating vanilla or banana pudding, that’s the mouthfeel and sweetness you find.


The Dragon | 20g © to 310g (w) | 1:15 add outer water |  3:15 begin plunge | 4:00 end time  | 207 degrees | 1.35 TDS | 22.15% Ext.(Immersion mode)

Incredible aromatics.

Whoa. What a cup. Where the geishas normally come across to me as floral forward and fruit underneath, the dragon really brings forward the fruits- probably the first and most noticeable aspect of the cup.  Crisp off the front, insanely silky, possibly one of the cleanest cups I’ve ever had, but still carries rich raspberry sweetness, wholesome and juicy bites of  honeydew and watermelon, and then the florals coming after, long and lingering.   The tangerine is present in the cup, but immaculately portrayed as far as balance in the cup, really, really attractive.

While the cup is almost so silky that it feels like nothing in the mouth, it carries a delicous richness, both to the fruits and these creamy and lightly cocoa notes in the finish that remind me if a soft cookies and cream ice cream.  More berry sweetness seems to draw out as it cools, at times more similar to a natural processed coffee, with this beautiful, sweet lemon note lingering on past the florals.  This really is an excellent portrait of this coffee.

Continuing sips are balanced, luscious- a perfect marriage of tropical punch sweetness (now with mango, peach, lychee) and elegant florals, all with a maple syrup finish down the center of the tongue.


Brew Method:

Aeropress (Inverted) | 17g © to 240g (w) | 2:00 then plunge by 2:30 total time | 198 degrees | 1.31 TDS | 19.55% Ext. (Immersion mode)

(I actually tried preparing this via Aeropress twice before, and still with no good results.  I decided instead of continuing to waste beans I’d leave it here and move on to better performing methods)

Tastes like a watered down version of the real thing.  Crisp tangerine, lingering fruit sweetness, jasmine and tea-like ending. Enough that I’d remember the profile if I never got another good make of it, but sad that it misses that body and saturation of flavor.  


Brew Method:

V60 no stir | 14g © to 227g (w) | 1:50 total time | 200 degrees | 1.33 TDS | 20.00% Ext.

So, it isn’t the coffee.  Here it still sings and in fact, might be one of the more flavorful makes.  That tangerine is bright on the front but perfectly comfortable, smashing head-first into that raspberry sweetness, splashing every inch of the mouth with fruit juiciness and a slick, candy-like lingering. 

It is clean, brimming with orange and lemon citrus notes, berry density, and a floral and herbal tea-like ending and lasts forever.  Without lessening in flavor, this coffee grows a bit more settled in, a bit more balanced in the cup, and remains immensely enjoyable.  I understand this is a poor description of the coffee, but this is so insanely good.  


I think it is hard to accurately describe a cup like this.  To be completely honest, I run into this issue quite often with the coffees that I’ve found the most enjoyable.  It is hard enough for me to pull away from the cup to jot down a note or two, let alone put that experience into words, even more how to describe the summation of the coffee.  Every single moment of this cup is an absolutely exhilaration of flavor.  This was one of the most flavorful geishas (also read coffees) I’ve had- vivid and balanced, nuanced in its aroma and complex in its flavors.  Jasmine and tangerine create such a lovely backdrop for the dense sweetness to melt over the palate and the body presents itself in several forms that will comfort and please- it really is one of the most exceptional coffees I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying.  

This selection from Kuma adds to their ever growing list of offerings that have left me beyond satisfied, still holding tight to my position in the Top 3 Roasters.  My only regret is I didn’t order more.

Co-host of the I Brew My Own Coffee Podcast and always has all the chocolate. I also love to play board games. Yea, let's go do that right now.