So you just bought a rare and expensive coffee, you are probably very excited to try a mind blowing brew and a little nervous that you might ruin it. Gesha is a truly special variety and this lot is the first fully mature harvest to be picked from trees originally planted on the El Vergel Estate in 2016. Gesha varieties trace their genetic lineage directly to native Ethiopian plants and show the same floral character and wild berry notes that make Ethiopian heirloom varieties so unique. The plants can be hard to grow in large quantities because of their low yields, shallow root systems, and susceptibility to disease. In recent years more farms have begun experimenting with growing Gesha and this year we are lucky to have an incredible anaerobic natural Gesha Marcela.
The best way to brew any coffee is the way that you most enjoy it, but if you really want to experience all that this coffee has to offer you’ll need to follow a few simple guidelines. What makes this coffee so special is its deep and layered flavors, to taste every note in this coffee we’ll need to make a coffee that as transparent and clean as possible.
Step One: Use a paper filter. Paper filters, especially thick papers like Chemex will strip away almost all of the oils and fines from the brew leaving a clean canvas for the coffee flavors to be painted on. The coffee oils and fines from a metal filter will cling to your tongue and coat the sides of your mouth, providing a rich texture but covering up the delicate flavors of the coffee.
Step Two: Get the ratio right. Like most pour overs you should use around 16:1 water to coffee ratio but you’ll be much better off adding extra water than adding extra coffee. A brew that is too strong will compress and muddle the flavors. Don’t worry about getting a heavy body for this coffee, the softer and more tea-like it is the more likely you are to taste the delicate jasmine and mint notes.
Step Three: Grind fine and fearlessly. You’ll need a high extraction to unlock all of the flavors in this coffee. If you grind too fine you’ll probably end up with something very syrupy and slightly bitter, but too coarse and you’ll get a watered-down pineapple juice. With a coffee this intense and flavorful it is easy to think that you have captured all of the flavors at a low extraction but keep pushing finer to ensure that you unlock this coffee’s full potential.
Step Four: Let it cool down. I know this is a hard rule to follow but it is impossible to taste all that this coffee has to offer when it is hot. You’ll get some cherry and dark fruit notes on your first sip but if you wait until the coffee has cooled to ~125F you’ll find a layer of cooling jolly rancher and eucalyptus under those dark fruits. Letting the coffee cool helps to define flavor notes so the syrupy sweetness that you tasted when the coffee was hot will separate into distinct fruits as it cools.
Step Five: Practice sensory drinking. Most of the time when we drink coffee it is 12-16oz’s at a time, with big sips, in a heavy mug. For this coffee try doing the opposite. Drink a little bit at a time out of a shallow glass or bowl, I like using my whiskey glasses or tea cups. Take small sips and spray the coffee over palate with a slurp. This will coat your taste buds with a thin layer of coffee making it easy to pick out individual tasting notes. You don’t have to use a spoon or become a professional coffee taster, but a little extra attention to detail will allow you to experience the intricacies that are easy to miss when you drink out of a big mug.
Step Six: Enjoy! Make time and space to savor this special coffee. And once you get to know it a little try it as a Japanese iced coffee or espresso. Have fun with it and make it your own.