As Denver's boutique coffee scene continues to develop, establishments are offering up an ever-increasing variety of Joe, from the essence of Tanzanian peaberries extracted through a French press to Sumatran varietals processed through beakers and tubes straight out of a mad scientist's laboratory. But none of these options are as illustrious (or as expensive) as what's currently being offered at Novo Coffee.
Yes, the Geisha is possibly the best coffee on the planet -- and one that a few years ago sent Novo co-founder Joseph Brodsky halfway around the world.
The Geisha, produced on a plantation in Boquete, Panama, took the world by storm when it took first place at the Best of Panama coffee competition in 2004, an award it has continued to score every year since then. It's unique, citrus-like taste has captured the imagination of coffee connoisseurs around the world -- and has also driven fierce bidding frenzies among coffee roasters every time a new crop comes up for sale. Last year, the Geisha sold at auction for $170.20 a pound, surpassing its own world record for most ever paid for a bag of beans.
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Part of the Geisha's mystique is also the mystery behind it. While it's now grown in Panama, it likely originated somewhere in Ethiopia -- although no one knows exactly where. Finding its birthplace -- and possibly other coffees just as spectacular -- was the impetus behind a 2006 expedition to the jungles of southwestern Ethiopia that included some of the greatest coffee explorers around, including Brodsky, one of the founders of Novo Coffee, a high-end coffee roaster based in Denver.
To make a long story short, the trek never found the Geisha -- it broke down several dozen miles short of its goal due to impassable muddy roads, caffeinated bickering and reports of man-eating lions. And since then, Brodsky's moved on to found his own company, Ninety Plus Coffee, leaving Novo in the more-than capable hands of his brother Jake and father Herb.
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So, while you still can't get Geisha straight from its source, you can get the Panamanian version, which is still pretty darn spectacular. And since Novo just got a batch of it, you can get it now -- for a limited time -- at its retail location, the Denver Art Museum's Museum Residences, 1200 Acoma Street, Unit A. Sure, an eight-ounce cup of the stuff will set you back a cool $4.50, but at least you'll know you're paying not just for some of the best coffee around, but also one with a hell of a story behind it.
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