Jason Mraz Grows Coffee That Sells for $199 Per Can

Jelisa Castrodale

A couple of years ago, the southern California-based Bird Rock Coffee Roasters started serving a limited-edition pour over, offering its customers the chance to taste La Esmeralda Bosque Geisha coffee, which is grown in the highlands of Panama. But that kind of universally coveted, ultra-rare coffee doesn't come cheap: each cup cost $11 bucks.

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Earlier this month, Bird Rock announced that it's back with another Geisha varietal, one that it says is the first—and so far the only one—to be grown and harvested in San Diego. This one, which was grown on a farm owned by Grammy-winning singer Jason Mraz, makes that previous cup's price tag seem almost cute by comparison. Each pour over serving is $35, and it's selling four ounces of the stuff for $199 on its website.

"It has always been our mission to provide San Diego with the best specialty coffee the world has to offer, and now we can include San Diego County in that lineup of excellence," Jeff Taylor, the co-owner of Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, said in a statement. "Now, unlike any other moment in history, we have access to Geisha, one of the world's rarest, multiple award-winning and delicious coffees, grown right in our backyard."

The coffee is said to have notes of jasmine tea, honey, key lime pie, elderflower, and it was planted by Frinj Coffee at Mraz Family Farms in 2015. Mraz provided the land and the optimal, certified organic growing conditions, while Frinj dried and processed the beans. (And this isn't the only coffee that is coming out of Mraz Family Farms. It also grows more than a dozen other varietals and currently has 2,800 trees.)

But why is it so expensive? Partially because of its rarity, and partially because of its quality. This is the first time this Mraz-grown Geisha has been available, and it will only be sold, shipped, or poured by Bird Rock Roasters. "It’s the equivalent of unveiling a 50 year-old bottle of quality wine," Taylor told San Diego Magazine. "This isn’t for everybody. It’s a historic moment for a select few people who want to see what a Geisha grown in San Diego tastes like. We’re not going to be serving a $35 cup of coffee for very long. I imagine this will sell out in a few hours."

Geisha—also spelled Gesha—is believed to have originated in Ethiopia’s Gori Gesha forest, and was taken to the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) in Costa Rica in the 1950s. A decade later, a Panamanian official took a few plants back with him and gave them to farmers in the high elevations in and around the town of Boquete.

The coffee got everyone's attention in 2004, when beans from Hacienda La Esmeralda won the Best of Panama auction, selling for $21 per pound. (By comparison, Geisha from the Elida Estate sold for $1,029 per pound at this year's Best of Panama auction, setting a new record.)

Food & Wine has reached out to Bird Rock to find out out how long its Mraz-grown Geisha lasted. If you missed it, the next best thing might be a cup from your own Chemex while you listen to "I'm Yours" on endless repeat.