Ever since featuring Bean & Bean Coffee Roasters in my roundup of noteworthy woman owned coffee roasters, their Guatemala Santa Felisa Purple Gesha has been popping up all over my Instagram feed. There have been several high-profile coffee influencers who’ve loved this coffee and, I must admit, I was definitely influenced into buying this one (which is saying something considering it was $36 for six ounces – that’s money I never spend on myself). But the story of Santa Felisa inspired me to crack open my wallet.
This coffee is a limited run for Bean & Bean, and a rarity in the coffee world: a Purple Gesha.
What is Purple Gesha?
Gesha is a rare, highly sought-after variety. These coffees are originally from Ethiopia’s Gori Gesha Forest (which is where it derives its name). Geisha coffee has a distinctive, flowery and fruit-like flavor that can vary depending on the origin. It’s also a very finnicky variety that is difficult to cultivate. It requires a certain altitude, photosynthesis is not as efficient, and farmers have to be incredibly accurate with their harvest timing.
The “purple” modifier in Purple Gesha refers to the color of the cherries, which are hand-picked and sorted out from the rest of a harvest to ensure high brix content. (Brix is a measure of the amount of dissolved solids in a liquid; purple cherries = sweeter).
So Purple Gesha, really, is the rarest of the rare in specialty coffee. But the challenges faced and the extremely careful attention to detail required to cultivate it is no match for the women at Santa Felisa.
Established in 1904, Santa Felisa has maintained the founding values of integrity, quality, loyalty and justice. The farm is run by fourth generation siblings under the guidance of the visionary agronomist, ecologist and Q-Grader Anabella Meneses. Another secret to the farm’s success is the thoughtful and creative experimentation behind its farming and drying processes.
With this particular coffee, Meneses followed a sundry-heap fermentation in which the coffee beans are fermented inside the cherries. Afterwards, the drying process was done under an anaerobic environment. To learn more about anaerobic processing, check out this helpful article from Cafe Imports. The cherries were dried on raised African beds for two weeks. Lactic acid bacteria was fomented to grow and give a sweet and silky cup profile. Cherries were placed on the drying beds again for another two weeks in thin layers.
“We are so honored and proud of our partnership with Santa Felisha,” writes Jiyoon Han. “Their commitment to quality, gender inclusion, the environment, and the communities around the farm inspires us to keep going forward. In a moment when the coffee world is searching ways to improve its ways, Santa Felisha is one of the trailblazers changing things for the better.”
region: Acatenango Valley Guatemala
farm: Santa Felisa, Paraxaj lot
producer: Anabella Meneses
elevation: 1550 meters above sea level
process: natural, heap fermentation
The aroma of the Guatemala Santa Felisa Purple Gesha is intensely floral. This is a hallmark of the Gesha variety; even so, this coffee is fabulously perfumed with purple floral aromatics, candied melon sweetness, and just the slightest hint of cedar.
The flavor follows the nose into a silky, full-bodied coffee. I’m actually surprised by how mellow the coffee’s flavor profile is. I was expecting a natural Gesha to be intensely vibrant and lively since this variety can be known for its bright, exotic, tropical fruit notes. This coffee is much more mellow, nuanced, and floral-forward with notes of lavender and honeysuckle. Subdued watermelon, currant, and grape notes emerge as the cup cools before settling into a clean, sweet caramel candied finish.
Bean & Bean Coffee’s Guatemala Santa Felisa Purple Gesha is a beautiful, extravagant coffee. It’s a celebration of some of the best things happening in the coffee world right now: processing experimentation, expert farming, and inclusivity with smart, able women at every step in the process, from farming to buying to roasting to distribution.
What were your thoughts of this one? Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome! Contact me, or enter a comment below
Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.