Season 6 Episode 4 of the hit Netflix show Billions featured one of its main characters, Michael Prince, offering some brewed coffee in a Chemex vessel by ostentatiously saying "Elida Geisha?"
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He goes on to pour some of that rich people cuppa joe and a label shows that this brew retails for $600. Is this real? Yes. Then what the carajo is that coffee and how does it cost that much?
|You pour a $600 Elida Geisha coffee into a less than stellar mug? Bad billionaire!|
This coffee is produced in the Chiriqui province of Panama, by Lamastus Family Estates, specifically their finca called Elida Estate, the coffee variety is called Geisha. Think of coffee varieties like wine varieties, e.g. pinot noir vs cabernet. Geisha, sometimes written as Gesha, is a variety of coffee originated in Ethiopia, and has particularly thrived in the highlands of Chiriqui, in terms of flavor, aroma, and complexity.
For the past 5 years, Elida Estate have kept breaking price records in auctions with their Geishas, hiking up to $4,100 USD per pound of green coffee in a 2021 private auction. Who is spending that much dough in coffee? Mainly sophisticated palates in Asian countries, including the Japanese imperial family.
If you’re curious about how this translates to the price tag in the show: green coffee loses about 15% of its weight when roasted, so let’s assume we’re left with 0.85 pounds of coffee or 13.6 ounces, of which 1.8 ounces is usually used in a Chemex filtered method to produce 25 ounces of brewed $600 worth of liquid heavenly gold. Don’t forget to add other direct costs such as high quality roasting, grinding, brewing services and equipment.
What does it taste like? A lot like tea, to be honest, but an exquisitely floral, aromatic, slightly acidic, complex cup of strong tea.
Would I like it? For most average commercial coffee drinker, you'd be puzzled by how light and subtle it is. For that price tag, people are expecting an explosion of flavor but think of it like a fine-tuned pitch-perfect soft melody instead of a loud shout. Think of coffee having reached wine-levels of sophistication, where a trained palate can discern a $1000 bottle from a $50 one. We’re not all at that level and that’s ok, there’s plenty of in-between ranges to explore the wonderfully rich rabbit hole the coffee industry has become, as well as fun analogies to accompany them.