Qualia Coffee celebrates its fourth anniversary with a Geisha

Joel Finkelstein hadn't made plans to celebrate the latest anniversary of Qualia Coffee, his micro-roaster and java shop in Petworth. He was just too busy. But then a coffee importer asked if he wanted a small supply of experimental Geisha beans from Nicaragua.

Joel Finkelstein will be pouring $4 Geisha coffees to celebrate the fourth anniversary of Qualia Coffee. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
Joel Finkelstein will be pouring $4 Geisha coffees to celebrate the fourth anniversary of Qualia Coffee. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

And just like that, Finkelstein had his celebration theme: $4 cups of the much-hyped Geisha coffee to mark his fourth anniversary. (This is well below the $7.50 price that Peregrine asked for its Geisha Esmeralda, the Panamanian bean that allegedly started the craze in the early 2000s.)

"This just kind of fell in my lap," Finkelstein said this morning while roasting a batch of beans in the back of his store. "I thought, 'This is a good way to commemorate the anniversary.' "

Finkelstein has only four-and-a-half pounds of the Nicaraguan Geisha, so it will go fast. It could, in fact, be sold out by Friday.

The beans come from a small farm in Nicaragua that a D.C.-based coffee importer owns, Finkelstein said. About three years ago, the importer planted an experimental crop of Geisha plants, and Qualia's beans are among the first 30 pounds harvested from the plot. Finkelstein said his are the only beans imported into the States from this Nicaraguan lot.

The beans at Qualia are, Finkelstein noted, "super-fresh" because they were flown into Washington, not shipped; they're no more than a month off the farm.

Once these Geisha beans are gone, they're gone for good. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
Once these Geisha beans are gone, they're gone for good. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

This morning, Finkelstein prepared two different cups of Geisha coffee: One from Panamanian beans and one from the Nicaraguan beans. The difference in the coffees was remarkable. The Panamanian Geisha boasted a honeyed sweetness, with a mild acidity and medium body; the Nicaraguan Geisha, by contrast, practically floated on the tongue, as if it were more vapor than liquid. Despite the light body, the coffee had a bright, tart acidity with nary a hint of caramel or nuttiness to balance it out.

Acid freaks would do well to seek out the Nicaraguan Geisha at Qualia. As in first thing Thursday morning. Because, as they say, once the beans are gone, they're gone for good. Or at least until next season.

Further reading:

* Peeking behind the veil of Starbucks's $7 coffee

* Not your regular joe: Peregrine's $7.50 Geisha coffee

Gbenga Ajilore is an economics professor at the University of Toledo, who research centers on public finance and sports economics.
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