…the plant variety (to avoid any confusion and possible outrage).

The French Laundry and Per Se announce a one of a kind coffee program beginning in October 2007. Each restaurant will offer Panama Esmeralda Geisha, which is a premiere estate coffee from Equator Coffees & Teas. The program is extremely unique, as The French Laundry and Per Se are the only restaurants in the United States serving the Geisha coffee. Service will be a la minute, or brewed-to-order, with a light roast designed to bring out the coffee’s brightness.

Characterized by a jasmine-like fragrance and citrus clarity, this celebrated coffee has garnered 10 first place awards in the last four years including recognition as the world’s best coffee by the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

Grown at the highest altitude of Hacienda La Esmeralda, in the Boquette region of Panama, the coffee beans develop a flavor so unique, the taste has not been experienced anywhere else. Only 215 sacks of this rare coffee were produced in 2007 and sold for an incredible $130 a pound at auction – making it the most expensive coffee in the world.

Paul Roberts, Master Sommelier and the Wine and Beverage Director for the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group notes, “We’re delighted to have the opportunity to bring our guests such a rare and extraordinary coffee as the Panama Esmeralda Geisha. The coffee is a truly a gold standard, and a wonderful compliment to our fall menu offerings.”

The Panama Esmeralda Geisha service will begin at The French Laundry on October 8th, 2007 and at Per Se mid-month. Both service programs will be available until the supply ends however consumers may have another opportunity to enjoy the program in 2008.

I must admit that their sister restaurant “Bouchon” is arguably one of my favorite 3 restaurants on the planet; I’ve always been afraid to try the coffee there, in case it was below the standard set by the food and service.

Some, like Greg Sherwin of CoffeeRatings.com share a more cynical view of the addition, looking at it as more of a “stunt” than a strategic offering:

I can buy some Geisha at the Peet’s Coffee around the block from where I work; I don’t need a restaurant to do that for me, charge me $210 for the privilege, and then act as if they just made me a 1959 Château Margaux with their bare feet.

I agree on some points; this particular coffee was clearly added to gain attention, otherwise, why press release it? However, I maintain a more positive view that the mere recognition that such coffees exist and their addition to a restaurant menu is a welcome advance from the current state of coffee in the culinary world. It takes only a few leaders to grab the attention of others in the industry, who will hopefully follow and abstract their own improvements.