STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 4, Number 2

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STiR tea & coffee industry international 59 What he discovered lifted his spirits. "The traits of the Panama geisha were evident in wild plants throughout the region," said Boot. The elongated cherry, Christmas tree like branches and dark green oval foliage all resembled Panama. He returned once more in Feb. 2012 to explore a remote forest at an hour's drive from the Gesha estate. It was then he stumbled upon a forested high plateau with acres and acres of wild coffee underbrush. "I felt as if I were in heaven. We had stumbled upon an uncountable number of wild coffee trees growing under the soothing protection of primary shade. Practically all of the trees were in full blossom. An invigorating scent of jasmine perfumed this pollen- infused paradise. The reality had become better than the dream itself!" he recalled. Looks can be deceiving Boot now needed scientific proof that DNA in the Ethi- opian trees was closely related to that of the Pana- manian geisha. These tests are generally done using leaves or seeds but Ethiopia has strict regulations (and painful penalties) for removing tissue material. "I was in Kingston, Jamaica working with a client and organizing my stuff while considering the protocol for gathering alternate plant material for testing. I had read of the research work of Dr. Sarada Krishnan in Madagascar and nearby Sudan. Dr. Krishnan is the director of horticulture at Denver Botanic Gardens. I decided to give her a call," he said. "I'm traveling in Jamaica," he said, "perhaps we can talk next week." "Guess what, I am in Jamaica too!" "We spent an hour at breakfast the next morning. I scribbled out my idea to extract the DNA from green coffee beans and compare the genetics of Ethiopian gesha with the Panamanian geisha," said Boot. "Maybe there is a way," she said. "I'll do my best to make it work, but no guarantee." Krishnan ground the dried green beans in a Cuisinart and after modifiying the extraction protocols was able to extract the genomic DNA. "She was very diligent. It took her nine months," said Boot. The research paper she published demonstrates "a high likelihood that the trees we found in Ethiopia are related to those in Panama," said Boot. Gesha Village Estate Overton and Samuel are tending more than 700,000 trees, of which at least half are descendants from the trees that were found in the nearby Gesha forest. Boot explains, "These Gesha variety trees already display close resemblance to the geisha coffee trees I started growing at my own farm, Finca La Mula, in Panama." The very first harvest has been encouraging. In November Boot cupped the first pickings publicly in Korea following a lecture on the varietal. To the Koreans "the flavor was as surprising as I recall," said Boot. It may take several years to develop cultivars that potentially produce greater disease resistance, higher yields and superb taste. DNA testing in Ethiopia will con- tinue using the beans produced at the newly established Gesha Village Estate. Now that they have reacy ac- cess to a nearly unlimited gene pool, researchers like Dr. Krishnan can iden- tify genetic markers, assess the genet- ic variability and dial in desired traits. Aside from growing world-class coffee there are other truly interesting opportunities," said Boot, adding "One day Ethiopia could make more money licensing genetic stock than exporting coffee." Eighty years after leaving, like the prodigal son, the legacy of Gesha has finally returned home to a promising future indeed. Geisha coffee beans require a meticulous roasting. The beans have an elongated, opened structure allowing heat to penetrate easily. As a result the heat must be applied carefully with a gradually increasing Rate of Rise (RoR) and a relatively short roasting development time (Rd). Branch of Panama geisha tree with typical large dark green oval shape leaves Ripening geisha cherries Photos by Willem Boot

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