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Panama

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Panama Boquete Elida Estate IN PROGRESS

Elida Estate has been in the Lamastus family since its inception in 1918. Named for the wife of Robert Louis Lamastus, the farm is in the Alto Quiel region of Boquete, with a range of altitudes from 1670 to 1825 meters. It is mostly planted in Caturra, but there is a small amount of Bourbon varietal. More than half of this farm is located within the Volcan Baru National Park, a protected ecological reserve and sanctuary for exotic plants, birds and mammals. Elida has been a top finisher in the Best of Panama for years, and their wet process coffees are the epitome of the refined Boquete flavor profile.

The dry fragrance is very sweet, with floral aromas and cherry fruited notes. Adding water, the wet aromatics also have this cherry fruit scent (more like cherry pie), floral aspects, and cooked peach notes as well. The cup is juicy, delicate and yet quite layered in flavors as well. The fruit, as in the aroma, oscillates between stone fruit and cherry-like flavor, with a clean, sweet backdrop of honey. It's a bright coffee, but the malic acidity is not aggressive. The body is light and has a juicy mouthfeel which suits the cup flavors quite well. The coffee works well at a wide range of roasts, but there were a couple samples where the sweetness and floral-fruit notes really popped. This was (unsurprisingly) at City+ level, with a roast curve that was gentle enough, but did not baby the roast through the finish too slowly.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Boquete, Chirqui
Processing: Wet-Process
Arrival Date: August 2011 Arrival GrainPro Bag
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 18-19 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity /
Roast:
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Panama "Siete Dias de Bellota"

We named this lot of natural (dry-processed) coffee from Panama's Carmen Estate the "Los Siete Dias de Bellota" when we first offered in 3 years ago. Bellota is the local name for a dry-process coffee, and it means "nut" based on the appearance of a dried whole coffee cherry pod. Usually Bellota is the last coffee strip-picked from the trees, for local consumption, and includes unripe fruits and other damage. But here it refers to all-ripe, red coffee fruit picked at the peak of harvest. Siete Dias? What started as a fluke is now a coffee we have asked Carlos to replicate. A series of intense (hurricane-like) storms rocked the Chirqui province in North Panama in late '08 and early '09, stripping the coffee trees of fruit and leaves in some areas and sending flood-level waters down the rivers. Carmen estate was protected from the damaging winds but the river that lies between the farm and the mill where the coffee fruit is processed swelled up and washed away the bridge. Power was out for 7 days in mid-January, right when the coffee cherry was in mid-harvest. The only option Carlos and Too (the owner and the farm manager) had was to lay out the whole cherries to dry ...to create a dry-process lot. Amazingly, this coffee has a fantastic cup. So for these 7 days without power, we get our appellation; Siete Dias.

The Siete Dias is an extremely different flavor profile than the wet-process Carmen coffee, and has been very consistent for the past 3 years in flavor profile. The dry fragrance has an abundance of chocolate (actually, like s'mores - chocolate, graham cracker, marshmallow!) There is sweet fruit in the light roasts; apple, peach. In darker roasts it is chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. Wet aromas have a similar shift from light to dark roast levels, and it's one of many ways this coffee is reminiscent of a clean dry-process Ethiopia Sidamo. At C+ roast there is sweet cooked fruit, like peach pie, and at FC+ it is thick layers of chocolate. You might not like this coffee roasted as light as I do (City roast) but the very cleanly fruited cup at this level proves the quality of this coffee, even if you roast it darker to obscure these fruits. It has Sidamo-like peach and dried apricot flavors. At City roast it has almondy roast tone and round body. As the lighter roast cools, the fruits seems more like fig and when I brewed it in a French Press it had mango and melon as it cooled, and sweetness becomes shorter in the finish. It's an intense SO espresso, with clean tangy chocolate and a very long aftertaste. Overall, the acidity is very mild, which makes this coffee 180 degrees opposite the wet-process Carmen estate 1900 meter lot we have. It would be very, very hard to guess this was even a Central America coffee in a blind cupping, without some prior knowledge.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Checking out dry process at Carmen Estate
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Volcan, Paso Ancho
Processing: Dry-Processed
Arrival Date: July 2011 Arrival, GrainPro
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Catuai, Caturra, Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Bold intensity / Fruit and Chocolate
Roast: City to Full City+: The flavor is greatly transformed by the roast, from light fruit tones to intense chocolate notes. See the review for more details.
Compare to: Actually, it is more like Ethiopia Sidamo coffees than other Central Americans.
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Panama Carmen Estate 1900 Meters

Carmen Estate is a farm we have worked with for a long while. The farm was passed down to the new generation of the Franceschi family, namely Carlos Franceschi Aguilera (Carmen was his grandmother). In the past they simply harvested the trees and sold the coffee cherry at low prices to the large farms in the valley. Carlos realized that they had a better coffee on their family farm then something to blend with lower-grown coffees. He built his own mill for the Estate down in the valley using the latest equipment, and began a program to care for the trees using new techniques. This farm uses the forced demucilage process where the fruit pulp is stripped off the parchment layer using friction, rather than traditional fermentation. I was very impressed with the high altitude and excellent practices of Carlos and Finca Carmen. This coffee has been in the top 10 of the Best of Panama competition too many times to count, from #2 to #5 spot every year in fact. The entire farm is very high altitude; it starts at 1750 meters, an altitude many farms don't even reach, and goes up from there! We have a special arrangement to buy this coffee each year from a particular part of the farm around 1900 meters, a small micro lot. Altitude isn't the only factor that matters with coffee, but it does allow coffee to ripen slower and creates greater bean density. Density and slow maturation are important factors in cup quality.

Carmen ranges from a caramelly coffee to a more tart acidic flavor profile. I would say this year is more sweet, and slightly lower-toned than some years past, although light roasts have an abundance of citrus. The dry fragrance is caramelly and has orange rind and a bit of hazelnut. Adding hot water, the wet aroma follows suit with the fragrance, and is notably sweet and delicate. The body is light and appropriately delicate (especially when you cup it alongside the hefty natural coffee that comes from Carmen Estate). In the cup, light roasts certainly do have that brightness that is the hallmark of good Panama coffees. My City roast is citric and sweet, lemon acidity with a complimentary tangerine flavor rounding out the aftertaste: delicious! There is an unobtrusive nutty roast taste, and a honey wheat puff note in the finish. Darker roasts, Full City+, have a more caramel balance and less brightness overall. I think Full City level had the best of both worlds, a developed roast sweetness with brown sugar flavor, and zingy brightness as well. As the cup cools it becomes more complex; vanilla, malt syrup and orange peel notes emerge in the finish.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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The wet-process coffee on the drying patio at Carmen
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Paso Ancho, Volcan
Processing: Wet-Process Style
Arrival Date: July 2011 Arrival, GrainPro
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Catuai, Caturra, Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Sweetness, caramel, body, balanced brightness.
Roast: City+ to Full City.
Compare to: Usually a very bright, clear, crisp coffee, this year the lot has a balance, sweetness and heft, and a bit lower acidity than previous seasons. A perennial Best of Panama competition top 5 coffee.
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Panama Organic La Berlina Estate Typica

La Berlina is the epitome of classic Central American cup character; clean, sweet, caramel-malt roast taste, creamy body, a refined finish. I have been to this farm several times, and seeing the incredibly old 18 foot tall Typica trees makes it no wonder why the coffee bears this character. It is less acidic than our 1900 meter selection from Carmen Estate, but it makes up for it with this solid balance. Berlina is 100% old Typica cultivar, towering ancient trees, which expresses itself in the cup. And this Organic lot was far better than the samples I cupped of conventional Berlina, from newer plantings on a separate plot on the farm.

The cup is balanced, with dry fragrance of ginger cookie with a sprinkling of cocoa, while at FC+ it turns to a rich, bittersweet chocolate. Wet aromatics have a nice sweet cane sugar scent, a soft plum and floral aspect, lightly fruited. (It becomes flatly pungent if you roast much into 2nd crack, so try to avoid that). On the break, there is some savory (umami) aroma. The cup has some interesting balance between mild fruit, body and chocolate. There's a caramel-malt sweetness at City+ roast, and creamy mouthfeel. Toffee-praline nut flavors come out as the cup cools. At this stage of roast, City+, the coffee has a fairly wrinkled surface appearance ... but this isn't a beauty contest. That wrinkled appearance can be the optimal degree of roast for brighter cup character. Darker roasts have a very intense chocolate, and some fruited and slightly winey notes are still detectable, but for my money this is yet another City+ roast recommendation. City + (once again) is where you will experience the most of the aspects of this cup which make it so special. I thought my FC roasts of this coffee were too "roasty" and didn�t have the sparkle of the C to C+ cup. Still, the darker chocolate character of FC+ was attractive.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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It's the tall Typica trees at La Berlina and me. That was a while ago.
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Boquete
Processing: Wet-Processed
Arrival Date: May 2011 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Old Growth Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Rich aromatically, with caramel-malt sweetness in the cup, creamy body.
Roast: City+ (once again) is where you will experience the most of the aspects of this cup which make it so special. I thought my FC roasts of this coffee were too "roasty" and didn�t have the sparkle of the C to C+ cup. Still, the darker chocolate character of FC+ was attractive.
Compare to: Classic bright Central from a pure old growth cultivar.
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Panama Las Flores de Boquete

This coffee is a blend of small producer coffees from the Boquete area of Panama. It's quite an early arrival from the new crop, and while we usually buy coffees from specific farms in Panama, this lot cups so well we thought we would offer it. For that reason, most of what I can say about it concerns the cup quality, since I do not know the exact farms that went into the mix. The coffee is very sweet, hinting at good traditional wet-processing (done at the Ruiz mill in Boquete). But there does appear to be an occasional under-ripe in here. These are called quakers after roasting, and you can pick one out easily if you see it because they remain a light tan color, and fail to brown like the other coffee.

The dry fragrance has ample sweetness, suggestions of ripe oranges, and spice. The wet aroma is fruited and spicy; cherry, peach preserves, cinnamon stick. The cup has nice clarity and brightness, a crisp acidity. There are floral flavors, honeysuckle, as well as a fruity apricot note in the lighter roast. All through the roast range from City to Full City+ the coffee maintains its crisp roast taste, even as mildy bittersweet chocolate roast tones at FC roast levels. The body is well-suited to the cup, fairly light, but has creamy mouthfeel. There is an almond-like roast tone to the lighter levels (City, City+) and the finish is brief. It's no powerhouse flavor profile, but a delicate cup with distinct soprano range of flavors.





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Rare orchid at Finca Dracula, Panama
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Boquete, Chirqui
Processing: Wet-Process
Arrival Date: March 2011 Arrival
Appearance: .8 d/300gr, 15-17 Screen
Varietal: Catura, Bourbon, Catuai
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Crisp acidity, sweetness, creamy mouthfeel, light body.
Roast: City to Full City+ roast levels worked well. The roast tone shifts from nutty almond to mild chocolate at the extremes of this range.
Compare to: Classic bright-yet-balanced Central America cup profile, clean and very quaffable.
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Panama Esmeralda Gesha -Mario Enero Lot

We have offered Esmeralda Especial Gesha for a decade now, but only in the last 3 years has the farm held a private auction to market this famous coffee. This was a mixed blessing: on the one hand this careful separation of Gesha lots by location or plot on the farm, and by harvest date, meant that we could compare and chose based on cup quality. Indeed we found there was a huge range in qualities among the different elevations. On the down side, the competition would drive the best lots to extreme prices. At one time we paid $6 to $11 per Lb for this coffee, and now the prices for the lowest level of Geshas in the auction are $20. We simply buy the lots we think are best, and this year we bought two, Mario Enero and Mario Carnaval. They are actually from the same Mario plot, just different harvest periods. Mario is the original Gesha area on the farm in Jaramillo, not one of the new areas they have since planted. It is located between 1500-1650 meters, harvested during the month of February, 2010. Gesha (often spelled, wishfully, as Geisha, but this is not correct) is a cultivar with strong Ethiopian roots. It\'s rare that a coffee varietal announces itself so clearly in the cup flavors as the Gesha cultivar does in Panamanian coffee. It\'s extremely floral in the aromatics, with loads of tropical fruit. It is light bodied and delicate on one hand, yet extremely flavorful and long-lasting on the palate. There is no other coffee quite like it. And other farms that have cultivated Gesha don\'t attain the cup quality of the best Esmeralda Gesha. We have bought this coffee in auction, and farm direct for years. The Esmeralda Gesha makes blind cupping almost senseless, since I can identify its amazing fragrance, aroma and cup flavors immediately when I come upon it in a \"blind\" cupping! It is that dry fragrance that lets you know right away what is coming when the water hits the cup: incredible sweet floral, citrus blossom, sweet honey perfume atomized into the air. In terms of intensity, fruited and floral aspects, wet-processed Ethiopians and Kenyas are more in league with Gesha than any other Central American coffee. But it is difficult to price this sort of cup character. And when it is as exotic ...no, extraterrestrial ... as the Esmeralda Gesha, it is even more hard to quantify. In tasting the Gesha coffees, the cup flavors might seem less intense than the extreme aromatics. As the cup cools, perceived intensity and brightness will increase exponentially.

Aromatically, Gesha from Esmeralda is always a treat. Mario Enero is shockingly sweet in the dry fragrance. Jasmine and honeysuckle floral accent with berry fruits, Enero is the classic Esmeralda Gesha coffee. Honey and mild graham cracker hints are evident too. The wet aroma also has distinct jasmine, as well as cherry notes, honey, caramel, and soft milk chocolate at slightly darker roast levels. The cup has a light-yet-juicy body. Interestingly, after these knock-out aromatics, the first sip of the hot brew can be a little bit underwhelming. Wait for the temperature to drop a few degrees and it really "opens up." Enero is less fruity from the later harvests on the Mario plot, with a more honey and jasmine flavor profile. There is a wonderful Bourbon vanilla bean note in the afternose. The acidity in this years Mario seems a bit more tame than last year, and I think I appreciate that. The cup has a better structure, well-knit flavors, brightness and body. As it heads toward room temperature, the sweetness really turns up, and added to jasmine, honey and vanilla are bright raspberry notes with hints of bergamot orange. Note that we have found a few quakers (light-color beans that do not roast, they come from under-ripe coffee cherries) in this years coffees. In reality, there has always been a bit of this in Esmeralda Gesha lots, and just remove the 1 or 2 you might see in your roast before grinding and brewing.



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One from the vaults; Daniel and Merril Peterson from an early trip I made to Esmeralda.
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Jaramillo, Boquete, Chirqui
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2010 Arrival Vacuum Pack
Appearance: 1.0 d/300gr, 17-19+ Screen
Varietal: Gesha Cultivar
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity overall, but intense aromatics / Floral and fruited aromas, medium-to-light-body, delicate, yet intense on the palate.
Roast: General Esmeralda Gesha Roast: Pungent roast flavors of 2nd crack do harm to what this coffee is really about. This is a "2nd Crack is Taboo" coffee. Try to get it to a City or City+. Full City still has great aromatic complexity and perhaps more balance and body, but much less floral character
Compare to: Compare to the most floral Ethiopia washed (wet-processed) coffees. It's a world class cup, delicate, refined. and the winner of too many competitions to even start to list them here. Gesha is great coffee, but don't be sold on it without being critical. It's a light bodied, bright, floral coffee, both clean and delicate. If you like dark roast Sumatras, and dislike wet processed Ethiopia or bright Kenyas, Esmeralda Gesha might not be your bag.
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Panama Jurutungo Gesha

A 30 lb nano-lot of Gesha varietal coffee from the Jurutungo Estate in Panama... that is what we have here. As Gesha was "discovered" at Hacienda Esmeralda in Jaramillo-Boquete area of Panama, so to has it been found at other farms. You might remember the Don Pache Gesha we had some time ago? This is a farm that, as the crow flies, is not far from Don Pache or Esmeralda. But it is quite a ways by car, since you have to descend from the highlands down the to the junction of roads near hot and sweaty David, Panama. Then you must ascend up to the Chirqui Mountains again, past Piedra de Candela, to a point just outside La Amistad National Park, at the border with Costa Rica. The farm ranges from 1650-1850 meters, and is owned by Damaris and Dafne Gallarado. Jurutungo Estate has some old Gesha trees as well as some that spontaneously crossed with nearby Caturra varietal trees to form Caturra X Gesha (see our other listing for that coffee). This lot was pulped and processed entirely by hand on a very small scale. The cup is outstanding (we have kept in in vacuum pack from origin to delivery here at SM warehouse). There are a few immature beans that emerge as light-colored quakers in roasting. This is the nature of handmade nano-lots that are too small to be gravity separated. Pull these quakers out before grinding and brewing.

The dry fragrance from the light roasts is very floral, with a sweet mandarin citrus, and a light, clean honey scent. The darker roast is complex, a bit more caramelly, but still quite floral. The wet aroma is even more floral. It has a coffee blossom scent, which has traces of jasmine and honeysuckle. At both City and City+ roasts it was very floral, but this drops off noticeably at Full City level. While the Caturra X Gesha coffee is hard to define (syrupy, sweet, but not very floral) this Gesha lot is very. very Gesha-y. The sweetness is softly rounded, and extremely persistent through the long aftertaste: honey laced with caramel and vanilla. The floral aspects, especially at City+ roast, are distinctly jasmine. A citrus zest of bergamont livens up the brightness. It's simply a fantastic cup, and after my sample roasts there are just 29 Lbs. remaining!



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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A branch of Gesha coffee flowers at Jurutungo.
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Jurutungo, Piedra de Candela, Panama
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: September 2010 Arrival (Vac Pack)
Appearance: .8 d/300gr, 17-19+ Screen
Varietal: Gesha (also spelled Geisha)
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity overall, but intense aromatics / Floral and fruited aromas, medium-to-light-body, bold aromatics
Roast: This lot roasts well between City and Full City. FC roast is going to be a bit diminished in the top end, highest range of flavor, so City+ is recommended. It's an incredibly intoxicating coffee, aromatically and in the sapid sensations, and changes as it rests.
Compare to: The most floral Ethiopia washed (wet-processed) coffees.
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Panama Jurutungo Caturra X Gesha

This is a 30 lb nano-lot of Caturra X Gesha varietal coffee from the Jurutungo Estate in the Jurutungo area of Panama. Caturra X Gesha? That is what the plant has been identified as, and that is the way it cups too! It appears that on this small farm in the Jurutungo area of Panama, the old Gesha trees spontaneously cross-pollinated with the adjacent Caturra plants. The result is a coffee with more cherries on the branch, the appearance (more or less) of Caturra, but with flavor suggestions of Gesha. It's not as floral as an all-out Gesha coffee (see the sister lot of pure Gesha we are also offering), but it is definitely there in the cup flavors. This lot was pulped and processed entirely by hand on a very small scale. The cup is outstanding (we have kept in in vacuum pack from origin to delivery here at SM warehouse). There are a few immature beans that emerge as light-colored quakers in roasting. This is the nature of handmade nano-lots that are too small to be gravity separated. Pull these quakers out before grinding and brewing.

The dry fragrance is floral. It is, perhaps, muted when compared side by side to the pure Gesha coffee. (But I want to judge this coffee on it's own merits, not simply as how it measures up to Gesha. After all, it is interesting in and of itself). There is a strong scent of raw, unpasteurized honey, dusk flowers, and graham-cracker-caramel (a bit like a good waffle cone for ice cream). The wet aroma has cane syrup sweetness, and a similar caramel-cookie scent as the dry grounds did. I noted how the scent was much more aggressive with just a tad more roast. City roast had the light honey sweetness. A light level of Full City was quite chocolate and intense (and less sweet). On the break, the light City roast seemed under-roasted; I detected greenish notes. (These were not present in the cup). The darker roast became the sweeter of the two in the aromatics. The coffee is quite bright, with a sturdy, well-structured acidity. The sweetness and body are quite pronounced and combine to create a very syrupy effect. Honey-like sweetness is well-defined, but the floral aspects are transitory, most easily found at City roast level.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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My Photoslop image of Caturra and Gesha coffee cherries.
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Jurutungo, Piedra de Candela, Panama
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: September 2010 Arrival (Vac Pack)
Appearance: 0 to .6 d/300gr, 17-19+ Screen
Varietal: Natural hybrid of Caturra and Gesha
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity / Sweetness (honey and caramel), well-structured acidity, with slight floral notes
Roast: City roast has the best clarity in terms of floral aspects, but I think City+ to Full City produces the best cup overall.
Compare to: Is it Gesha? Is it Caturra? It's both and neither. It is a very sweet cup, and very syrupy in the body. That is a fact!
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Panama Boquete Lerida -Las Chichicas

Lerida Estate is synonymous with Boquete, and with fine Panama coffee. The farm is owned by the Collins family since 1957. They had bought it from the establishing owner, Tollef B. M�nniche, who founded the farm in 1922. Sadly, this is the final crop from the Collins as the farm has been sold. Ongoing divisions within the family and the rising price of land in the Boquete real estate boom have made for the change. We hope there will be nice Lerida coffee in the future, but that will be up to the new owner. It's with that we offer a micro-lot from the Lerida farm, Las Chichicas, named for a native flower found on the land. Located at 5500 feet, the farm has always produced a very bright cup from the dense coffee seed they harvest here.

This coffee has a more intense dry fragrance than I remember from the Lerida lots we have had in the past. It has raw honey, caramelized slightly, with fruited accents of plum and strawberry jam. Adding hot water to the grinds, the crust has a wonderful sweet scent, honey-on-toast, with mulling spice accent notes and peach fruit. The coffee has tons of jammy fruit in the cup flavors, apple butter, peach, and a bit of that berry found in the aroma. It has moderate brightness, but isn't that high-toned as I might expect from past lots of Finca Lerida. The body is creamy and fills the palate. In fact it has many characteristics of a pulp natural coffee, but if they took some liberties with the processing here it was very conservative adjustments because the cup is so sweet and clean.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Coffee cherry at Finca Lerida, Boquete
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Boquete Alto, Chirqui
Processing: Wet Processed
Arrival Date: November 2010 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Honey and fruit, very sweet
Roast: Light roasts appear quite wrinkly, a bit ugly and variegated in color, but taste really nice. In fact this coffee was hitting on all cylinders all through the range, from City to Full City+
Compare to: Not a typical Panama; strong sweetness, and creamy body.
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Panama Carmen Estate 1900 Meters

Carmen Estate is a farm we have worked with for many years now. It is located high on the hillside above the large, well known Finca La Florentina. In fact, La Florentina used to buy the coffee cherry from all the surrounding farms to augment their own. La Florentina is down in the flat valley and Carmen Estate is roughly another 500 meters higher up. Carmen is on a very steep hillside with southern exposure, and due to the high altitude, the coffee has greater density, better acidity, and is a more piquant cup. So in a way, Florentina was getting some better cup quality with Carmen in the mix. But the farm was passed down to the new generation of the Franceschi family, namely Carlos Franceschi Aguilera (Carmen was his grandmother) and he realized that they had a better coffee on their family farm then something to blend with lower-grown coffees. He built an independent micro-mill for the Estate down in the valley using the latest equipment, and began a program to care for the trees using new techniques. This farm uses the de-mucilage process where the mucilage is stripped off the parchment layer using friction, rather than traditional fermentation. I was very impressed with the high altitude and excellent practices of Carlos and Finca Carmen. This coffee has been in the top 10 of the Best of Panama competition too many times to count, from #2 to #5 spot every year in fact. The entire farm is very high altitude; it starts at 1750 meters, an altitude many farms don't even reach, and goes up from there! We have a special arrangement to buy this coffee each year from a particular part of the farm around 1900 meters, a small micro lot. Altitude isn't the only factor that matters with coffee, but it does allow coffee to ripen slower and creates greater bean density. Density and slow maturation are important factors in cup quality.

This coffee is known for acidity and brightness but this year it cups more like a sweet caramelly coffee, more about the syrupy body than bright, piquant flavors. The dry fragrance has a blunt and bold brown sugar sweetness, smells of sugars being caramelized and butter, praline almond. The aroma from the light roasts have malt and lemon in the wet aroma, but the balanced sweetness comes out at C+ to FC roast, with molasses and caramel-laced chocolate cookie character. On the break there is a lot of vanilla and creme brulee aromatics! The cup is all about ripe orange notes and sweet caramel in context with dense mouthfeel. There are still accents of clean vanilla, malt, a zest of orange rind, and a trace of warming spices in the finish. Note: This is actually quite stunning as an SO espresso as well, but fairly bright.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Carlos and I headed up to the farm, bypassing the bridge washed out by the January storms.
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Volcan, Paso Ancho
Processing: Wet-Processed
Arrival Date: July 2010 Arrival, GrainPro
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Catuai, Caturra, Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Sweetness, caramel, body, balanced brightness.
Roast: City+ to Full City +: The lighter roasts have great balance and dense, rounded mouthfeel. No need to roast dark to get chocolate from this cup.
Compare to: Usually a very bright, clear, crisp coffee, this year the lot has a balance, sweetness and heft, and a bit lower acidity than previous seasons. A perennial Best of Panama competition top 5 coffee.
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Panama Carmen "Siete Dias de Bellota"

Who knew that catastrophic storms would factor into one of the best natural dry-process coffees from Central America we have seen? That's what happened at Carmen Estate this last year, and we asked Carlos to replicate the lot in this current crop. A series of intense (hurricane-like) storms rocked the Chirqui province in North Panama in late '08 and early '09, stripping the coffee trees of fruit and leaves in some areas and sending flood-level waters down the rivers. Carmen estate was protected from the damaging winds but the river that lies between the farm and the mill where the coffee fruit is processed swelled up and washed away the bridge. Power was out for 7 days in mid-January, right when the coffee cherry was in mid-harvest. The only option Carlos and Too (the owner and the farm manager) had was to lay out the whole cherries to dry ...to create a dry-process lot. Amazingly, this coffee has a fantastic cup, and we have named it Los Siete Dias de Bellota: Bellota is the local name for a dry-process coffee, and it means "nut" based on the appearance of a dried whole coffee cherry pod. Usually Bellota is the last coffee strip-picked from the trees, for local consumption, and includes unripe fruits and other damage. But here it refers to all-ripe, red coffee fruit picked at the peak of harvest.

The Siete Dias is an extremely different flavor profile than the wet-process Carmen coffee, and I think this new crop lot in the "Siete Dias..." tradition is as fantastic as the original. The dry fragrance has an abundance of chocolate (actually, like s'mores - chocolate, graham cracker, marshmallow!) There is sweet fruit in the light roasts; apple, peach. In darker roasts it is chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. Wet aromas have a similar shift from light to dark roast levels, and it's one of many ways this coffee is reminiscent of dry-process Ethiopia Sidamo. At C+ roast there is sweet cooked fruit, like peach pie, and at FC+ it is thick layers of chocolate. You might not like this coffee roasted as light as I do (City roast) but the very cleanly fruited cup at this level proves the quality of this coffee, even if you roast it darker to obscure these fruits. It has Sidamo-like peach and dried apricot flavors, even a bit of Yemeni spice, cinnamon in particular. At City roast it has almondy roast tone and round body. As the lighter roast cools, the fruits seems more like fig and when I brewed it in a French Press it had mango and melon as it cooled, and sweetness becomes shorter in the finish. It's an intense SO espresso, with clean tangy chocolate and a very long aftertaste. Overall, the acidity is very mild, which makes this coffee 180 degrees opposite the wet-process Carmen estate 1900 meter lot we have. It would be very, very hard to guess this was even a Central America coffee in a blind cupping, without some prior knowledge!



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Our Bellota dry process lot in storage bags at the Carmen mill, last March.
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Volcan, Paso Ancho
Processing: Dry-Processed
Arrival Date: July 2010 Arrival, GrainPro
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Catuai, Caturra, Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Bold intensity / Fruit and Chocolate
Roast: City to Full City+: The flavor is greatly transformed by the roast, from light fruit tones to intense chocolate notes. See the review for more details.
Compare to: Actually, it is more like Ethiopia Sidamo coffees than other Central Americans.
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Panama Esmeralda Gesha -Mario Carnaval Lot

We have offered Esmeralda Especial Gesha for a decade now, but only in the last 3 years has the farm held a private auction to market this famous coffee. This was a mixed blessing: on the one hand this careful separation of Gesha lots by location or plot on the farm, and by harvest date, meant that we could compare and chose based on cup quality. Indeed we found there was a huge range in qualities among the different elevations. On the down side, the competition would drive the best lots to extreme prices. At one time we paid $6 to $11 per Lb for this coffee, and now the prices for the lowest level of Geshas in the auction are $20. We simply buy the lots we think are best, and this year we bought two, Mario Enero and Mario Carnaval. The later is offered here, and it was a really outstanding lot of the 8 separations offered this year by the farm. Mario is the original Gesha area on the farm in Jaramillo, not one of the new areas they have since planted. It is located between 1500-1650 meters, harvested during the month of February, 2010. Gesha (often spelled, wishfully, as Geisha, but this is not correct) is a cultivar with strong Ethiopian roots. It\\\'s rare that a coffee varietal announces itself so clearly in the cup flavors as the Gesha cultivar does in Panamanian coffee. It\\\'s extremely floral in the aromatics, with loads of tropical fruit. It is light bodied and delicate on one hand, yet extremely flavorful and long-lasting on the palate. There is no other coffee quite like it. And other farms that have cultivated Gesha don\\\'t attain the cup quality of the best Esmeralda Gesha. We have bought this coffee in auction, and farm direct for years. The Esmeralda Gesha makes blind cupping almost senseless, since I can identify its amazing fragrance, aroma and cup flavors immediately when I come upon it in a \\\"blind\\\" cupping! It is that dry fragrance that lets you know right away what is coming when the water hits the cup: incredible sweet floral, citrus blossom, sweet honey perfume atomized into the air. In terms of intensity, fruited and floral aspects, wet-processed Ethiopians and Kenyas are more in league with Gesha than any other Central American coffee. But it is difficult to price this sort of cup character. And when it is as exotic ...no, extraterrestrial ... as the Esmeralda Gesha, it is even more hard to quantify. In tasting the Gesha coffees, the cup flavors might seem less intense than the extreme aromatics. As the cup cools, perceived intensity and brightness will increase exponentially.

Aromatically, Gesha from Esmeralda is always a treat. Sweet dark berry aromatics with a floral accent, Carnaval is the classic Esmeralda Gesha coffee for sure. The wet aroma has jasmine and ripe cherry notes, honey, brown bread, and soft milk chocolate at slightly darker roast levels. The cup has a light-yet-juicy body. Interestingly, after these knock-out aromatics, the first sip of the hot brew can be a little bit underwhelming. Wait for the temperature to drop a few degrees and it really "opens up." The sweetness and fruit juice aspects of this years Esmeralda are astounding. Interestingly, this coffee is slightly inverted this year: the first flavors on the palate are super sweet berry juice, a blackberry-blueberry-raspberry blend. Then on the finish and in the "afternose" there is jasmine accents. Usually the floral comes first, then a wave of sweet fruit. The acidity in this years Mario seems a bit more tame than last year, and I think I appreciate that. The cup has a better structure, well-knit flavors, brightness and body.Note that we have found a few quakers (light-color beans that do not roast, they come from under-ripe coffee cherries) in this years coffees. In reality, there has always been a bit of this in Esmeralda Gesha lots, and just remove the 1 or 2 you might see in your roast before grinding and brewing. We are offering this years Esmeralda Gesha in 1 Lb vacuum packs for those who want to buy it now but save it for a special date later. Supply is very limited this year!



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One from the vaults; Daniel and Merril Peterson from an early trip I made to Esmeralda.
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Jaramillo, Boquete, Chirqui
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2010 Arrival Vacuum Pack
Appearance: 1.0 d/300gr, 17-19+ Screen
Varietal: Gesha Cultivar
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity overall, but intense aromatics / Floral and fruited aromas, medium-to-light-body, delicate, yet intense on the palate.
Roast: General Esmeralda Gesha Roast: Pungent roast flavors of 2nd crack do harm to what this coffee is really about. This is a "2nd Crack is Taboo" coffee. Try to get it to a City or City+. Full City still has great aromatic complexity and perhaps more balance and body, but much less floral character
Compare to: Compare to the most floral Ethiopia washed (wet-processed) coffees. It's a world class cup, delicate, refined. and the winner of too many competitions to even start to list them here. Gesha is great coffee, but don't be sold on it without being critical. It's a light bodied, bright, floral coffee, both clean and delicate. If you like dark roast Sumatras, and dislike wet processed Ethiopia or bright Kenyas, Esmeralda Gesha might not be your bag.
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Panama Guyami Indian Robusta

Panama Robusta??? Yes, and the story behind this coffee is quite remarkable. Basically, it is grown in extremely remote areas by the Guyami indian group, and the way it gets to the coffee mill is amazing. But let me describe the cup first. This robusta coffee can be brewed as filter coffee or a French Press (ideal), and is ideal for people who like super-potent coffees such as Sumatras, aggressive, low-toned types roasted to Full City or darker. It does quite well with a bit of (gasp) half and half. The main use of robusta, and why we have it at all is to experiment in espresso blends. It adds nice crema and body to espresso tests I performed, up to around 15% of the total blend. The preparation of this coffee is quite good, since it is delivered to one of the best mills in Panama for final sorting. It has an odd savory sweet dry fragrance, toasted grains, aromatic wood, with a bit of campfire smoke in the wet aroma. As said, the cup is aggressive, smoky, with a lack of brightness, and a dry finish. But to appreciate this lot, you need to hear the history not just the cup description, and the crazy journey it takes ...The robusta plants came to the Atlantic side of Panama, to the region of Bocas del Toro, as an experiment done by the United Fruit Company /Chiquita Banana during the early years of the twenty century. Bananas proliferated in the easement land beside railroad lines granted to these big companies, and what better way to capitalize on the land, and on any empty freight, than grow banana for export to the US. And why not try lower-grown Robusta coffee as well? The Robusta spread along the coast of Bocas del Toro by the native pickers for the Banana Company: They were familiar with coffee since they were harvesting some in the mountains of Boquete. They took along some beans to roast and drink at their houses in the coast and also started some trees for themselves. In this way, significant amounts of coffee began to be cultivated in small backyard orchards together with cacao trees. The coffee is grown Organically (certified for Europe only at this time). The processing used by the Guyami is like no other ...Robusta is so hard to pulp off the skins that the Indians are submerging the bags of picked cherry in a creek for one day to soften the exterior. After they remove the skin, they ferment for 12 hours to loosen the mucilage, rinse the coffee, then wash it again in the river, and dry the parchment on canvas. When they accumulate about 200 pounds of dried parchment (= about 120 Lbs of finished coffee), they paddle it downriver in canoes to the coast on canoes to the Beach of the Wales. Bags are collected onto bigger boat and sail to the port on the Bay of Almirante. From there the coffee travels by public bus (!) to David, and then 2 hours to Boqete where it is dry-milled. What a journey! Our friend Plinio who initiated the project with the Guyami emailed me that "We will find more information for you if the Indians contact us."





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Robusta coffee shrub with flowers.
Country: Panama
Grade: n/a
Region: Bocas del Toro area
Processing: Washed in a river, dried on canvas
Arrival Date: July 2010 Arrival
Appearance: .8 d/300gr, 17-19 Screen
Varietal: Coffea Canephora (Robusta)
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Bold / Crema, very dim brightness, campfire smoke, bittersweet flavors
Roast: This depends on your use, but I would say that robustas need a minimum of Full City+ meaning the coffee has audibly reached 2nd crack.
Compare to: A completely unique source, unique process method ...what other coffee takes the public bus to get to the mill? Can be brewed as a potent French Press coffee, and a bit of cream (ahem!) sweetens the cup. But main use is espresso blend.
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Panama Finca La Camiseta

Camiseta is a district in the Boquete region of Panama, but also the name of the farm where this lot originates. It's a traditional wet-process coffee

The fragrance from the dry grounds indicates a classic, malty, balanced Boquete flavor profile. Caramel, hazelnut and hibiscus (City roast) prevail, becoming more like Dutch cocoa at Full City roast. In the wet aroma I get maple, caramel, almond extract, and milk chocolate smells. The cup is sweet, balanced well between brightness and body. It has apple acidity (malic) which seems a bit winey in the darker roast levels, and caramelized brown sugar sweetness. The soft, rounded, creamy mouthfeel is very pleasant, and a bit unique among coffees from this area which can be a little thin, (especially the famous Gesha coffees). It's not a super complex coffee, but has both sharp and sweet flavors on the palate, as well as a hint of cedar in the finish. I think it rates very well alongside wet-process, clean-tasting Costa Rica lots, as well as some of the Guatemala caturra coffees, and it isn't a Panama that will break the bank either!





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A view of the coffee trees at Finca La Camiseta
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Camiseta, Boquete
Processing: Wet-Process
Arrival Date: June 2010 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Typica, Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Great balance, sweet, bright, creamy mouthfeel.
Roast: City to Full City+ roast levels worked well. The roast tone shifts from nutty hazelnut to mild chocolate at the extremes of this range.
Compare to: Classic bight-yet-balanced Central America cup profile, clean and very quaffable.
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Panama Garrido Gesha Collection

What we are offering here is a set of two coffees a Gesha by the traditional wet-process method, and a rarity, a Gesha "Honey" coffee, processed using the non-traditional pulp natural technique. So the set totals 1 Lb. of coffee, 1/2 Lb. of each. It's a rare opportunity to compare 2 very different interpretations of the wonderful Gesha cultivar, picked from the same farms but processed by different methods. The Gesha coffee from Hacienda Esmeralda has been famous for years, but other Gesha plots have always been there, in smaller amounts. We bought the Don Pache Gesha in the Best of Panana competition some time back, and the Garrido farm Mama Cata has had Gesha for many years as well. But they simply do not have enough in most years to enter it in the Panama competition. In fact, we have just 50 Lbs. here in total, and don't think it will be around very long once we launch this. So this review is really for 2 highly related but slightly different coffees (The cupping scores represent a combined analysis). I think it's a great opportunity to taste the difference processing makes against the backdrop of a super dynamic, bright, aromatic coffee like this high-grown Gesha lot. Panama Garrido Gesha, Traditional Wet-Process: As stated, this is the type of process done on all the Esmeralda Gesha coffees and results in the bright, clean, light-bodied cup. The dry fragrance of the wet-process lot is super floral, citrus blossom and rose at City roast. The wet aroma has a jasmine floral scent and tea biscuit sweetness, and is more dynamic in the light roast range. The wet process lot is certainly true to form; lighter body, brighter high notes, slightly more tart in the acidity, brilliantly clean and lively. There are lemon zests in the alto range, while a sugary sweetness, fading to lightly caramelized sugar, balances out the brightness. They body is light, but has a silky quality and overall the cup seems bubbling with life, effervescent. Panama Garrido Gesha, Honey Coffee (Pulp Natural Process): In this process, the coffee is not fermented to take off the fruity pulp, as it is in the wet-process. Here the coffee fruit is skinned and allowed to dry on screens with the fruit intact. Pulp naturals tend to have more body, more fruity notes, perhaps a little less acidity. The dry fragrance from the honey coffee is like a sweet graham cracker, and does indeed have a strong honey and bees wax scent. It is more fruited, with mango and melon notes. The wet aroma has ripe lemon, peach and honey. The aromatics are more muted than the wet-process lot for sure. While it is not as dynamic in brightness or aroma, the body adds a sense of roundness and fullness that the wet-process lot misses. Melon and stone fruit flavors dominate; apricot and peach. There's a slight cocoa note to the roast, but it is very sweet, as is the wet-process lot. I don't want to make any conclusions here ... I think you can reach your own. But since I was a judge at the Panama event, I think the wet-process lot could have won it. As you take your second, third, fifth sip, allow it to wash over your palate, the sweetness and floral notes are just brilliant, the aftertaste near godly. The Honey lot was consistently my favorite when cupping down in Panama, and it is probably the more crowd-pleasing coffee, but that wet-process lot ... wow. It's a little tricky here, to avoid over-roasting them and losing some of the aromatics. Under-roasts have a grainy finish, but can improve with resting time. Pay attention when roasting and you will have a wonderful reward!



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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A cluster of ripe Gesha coffee cherries in Panama, from this season.
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Boquete, Chirqui District
Processing: Other
Arrival Date: August 2009 Arrival (Vac Pack)
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 18-19 Screen
Varietal: Gesha cultivar
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity / Strong floral and fruit aromatics, delicate sweetness
Roast: For the Wet-Process lot, City roast is the brightest and most aromatic; allow it to finish 1st crack and stop it promptly. For the Honey lot, a little more roast heightens the fruit notes, while adding a greater sense of body. So City+ to Full City is ideal for the later.
Compare to: A Gesha coffee all the way; dynamic aromatics, silky sweet cup, fruit notes
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Panama Guyami Indian Robusta Rustico

Panama Robusta??? Yes, and the story behind this coffee is quite remarkable. Basically, it is grown in extremely remote areas by the Guyami indian group, and the way it gets to the coffee mill is amazing. But let me describe the cup first. This robusta coffee can be brewed as filter coffee or a French Press (ideal), and is ideal for people who like super-potent coffees such as Sumatras, aggressive, low-toned types roasted to Full City or darker. It does quite well with a bit of (gasp) half and half, and also has added crema and body to espresso tests I performed, up to around 15% of a blend. The preparation of this coffee is quite good, since it is delivered to one of the best mills in Panama for final sorting. But to appreciate this lot, you need to hear the history, and the crazy journey it takes ...The robusta plants came to the Atlantic side of Panama, to the region of Bocas del Toro, as an experiment done by the United Fruit Company /Chiquita Banana during the early years of the twenty century. Bananas proliferated in the easement land beside railroad lines granted to these big companies, and what better way to capitalize on the land, and on any empty freight, than grow banana for export to the US. And why not try lower-grown Robusta coffee as well? The Robusta spread along the coast of Bocas del Toro by the native pickers for the Banana Company: They were familiar with coffee since they were harvesting some in the mountains of Boquete. They took along some beans to roast and drink at their houses in the coast and also started some trees for themselves. In this way, significant amounts of coffee began to be cultivated in small backyard orchards together with cacao trees. The coffee is grown Organically (certified for Europe only at this time). The processing used by the Guyami is like no other ...Robusta is so hard to pulp off the skins that the indians are submerging the bags of picked cherry in a creek for one day to soften the exterior. After they remove the skin, they ferment for 12 hours to loosen the mucilage, rinse the coffee, then wash it again in the river, and dry the parchment on canvas. When they accumulate about 200 pounds of dried parchment (= about 120 Lbs of finished coffee), they paddle it downriver in canoes to the coast on canoes to the Beach of the Wales. Bags are collected onto bigger boat and sail to the port on the Bay of Almirante. From there the coffee travels by public bus (!) to David, and then 2 hours to Boqete where it is dry-milled. What a journey! Our friend Plinio who initiated the project with the Guyami emailed me that "We will find more information for you if the indians contact us."



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Robusta coffee shrub.
Country: Panama
Grade: n/a
Region: Bocas del Toro area
Processing: Washed in a river, dried on canvas
Arrival Date: July 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .8 d/300gr, 17-19 Screen
Varietal: Coffea Canephora (Robusta)
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Bold / Crema, bittersweet pungent flavors
Roast: This depends on your use, but I would say that robustas need a minimum of Full City+ meaning the coffee has audibly reached 2nd crack.
Compare to: A completely unique source, unique process method ? what other coffee takes the public bus to get to the mill? Can be brewed as a potent French Press coffee, and a bit of cream (ahem!) sweetens the cup. This coffee is part of our Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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Panama Las Flores de Volcan

The Volcan area is on the opposite side of Volcan Baru from the well-known town of Boquete, all in the state of Chirqui, western Panama. This coffee is a selection of small-farm lots from the higher altitudes of the Paso Ancho area, between the town of Volcan and Bambito, on the way to Cerro Punto. Most of these are farms too small to do lot separations, but they all come from the same basic terroir and are planted in Caturra and Bourbon (with some Catuai). And they are all located between 1750 and 1900 meters, very high altitude! The result is a bright, crisp cup that has the density to take on a wide range of roasts. The dry fragrance has ample sweetness, suggestions of caramel apple, and spice. The wet aroma is fruited and spicy; passionfruit, peach preserves, cinnamon stick. The cup has a crystal-clear brightness, a crisp acidity, effervescent and lively. There are floral flavors, honeysuckle blossom, candied apricot, a clean and refined sweetness. All through the roast range from City to Full City+ the coffee maintains its clarity, even as mildy bittersweet chocolate roast tones at FC roast levels. The body is well-suited to the cup, fairly light, but has creamy mouthfeel. There is a almond-like roast tone to the lighter levels (City, City+) and the finish is brief. It's no powerhouse flavor profile, but a classy, delicate cup with distinct soprano range of flavors. In an age of experimental pulp natural Panamas, it is fantastic to have a coffee like this, demonstrating the timeless and classic cup characteristics that made Panama a respected name!



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Coffee shrub leaves after a rainstorm, Volcan area, last season.
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Volcan, Chirqui
Processing: Wet-Process
Arrival Date: August 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Catura, Bourbon, Catuai
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Great balance, sweetness, creamy mouthfeel, light body.
Roast: City to Full City+ roast levels worked well. The roast tone shifts from nutty almond to mild chocolate at the extremes of this range.
Compare to: Classic bight-yet-balanced Central America cup profile, clean and very quaffable.
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Panama Esmeralda Gesha -Lot 2 Caballeriza

The renowned farm Hacienda Esmeralda in Panama held an auction for separated lots of their Esmeralda Especial Gesha coffee again this year. This was a mixed blessing: on the one hand this careful separation of Gesha lots by location or plot on the farm, and by harvest date, meant that we could compare and choose based on cup quality. Indeed we found there was a huge range in qualities among the different elevations. On the down side, the competition would drive the best lots to extreme prices: we are lucky that our favorite lots on the cupping table were not the "reserve" coffee that sold for $117 per pound! We thought the Caballeriza lot (as well as the Mario Carnival, which we did not bid on) were the best in the auction. No, it didn't go cheap, but it was less than the $125/Lb coffee from last year. I felt, overall, that last year's coffee was of a higher caliber. It was a small crop for most producers in Panama this year, and the limited amount in the Esmeralda auction might have driven prices more than anything. I felt that the cup we rated above 97 last year outcupped the new coffees even after it was stored 10 months or more. But this Caballeriza lot from 1500 meters in the Jaramillo area of Boquete really rated high next to the older coffees. Gesha (often spelled, wishfully, as Geisha, but this is not correct) is a cultivar with strong Ethiopian roots. It's rare that a coffee varietal announces itself so clearly in the cup flavors as the Gesha cultivar does in Panamanian coffee. It's extremely floral in the aromatics, with loads of tropical fruit. It is light bodied and delicate on one hand, yet extremely flavorful and long-lasting on the palate. There is no other coffee quite like it. And other farms that have cultivated Gesha don't attain the cup quality of the best Esmeralda Gesha. We have bought this coffee in auction, and farm direct for years. I was at the Best of Panama competition this year and Esmeralda Gesha won it, again; the Esmeralda Gesha makes blind cupping almost senseless, since I can identify its amazing fragrance, aroma and cup flavors immediately when I come upon it in a "blind" cupping! It is that dry fragrance that lets you know right away what is coming when the water hits the cup: this lot has sweet jasmine-like floral scents, and raspberry-strawberry fruit sweetness. The wet aroma has floral-herbal shampoo character, a hint of apricot and almond essence. The cup has jasmine and bergamot (the citrusy note from Earl Grey tea). There are layers of fruit below the citrus, red currant, dried strawberries, a touch of blueberry flavor as it cools, and just a dash of anise seed. The body is light, but silky in character. It's a delicate coffee, but so vividly sweet and flavorful! NOTE: I was cupping this today on a table of excellent Kenyas (Jan 28, 6 months after arrival, stored in vac packs) and it is amazing! Fresh, ripe, sweet tangerine citrus notes, berry hints, strawberry, a touch of anise. It's amazing how well this coffee maintains its character! -Tom



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Panama Gesha coffee cherries on the tree at the Jaramillo plot, from my last trip.
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Jaramillo, Boquete
Processing: Wet-Processed
Arrival Date: July 2009 Arrival, Vac Pack
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Gesha (Geisha) Cultivar
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Highly intense aromas, medium overall / Super floral, layers of delicate fruit
Roast: This is a "2nd Crack is Taboo" coffee. Try to get it to a City or City+. Full City still has great aromatic complexity and perhaps more balance and body. FC+ is where roast flavors start to eclipse the origin flavors, the floral and fruited notes. It is a large bean, you might need to cut back on the batch size a little. It has a patchy surface color after roasting, don't worry about it.
Compare to: The most floral Ethiopia washed (wet-processed) coffees. It's a world class cup, delicate, refined. and the winner of too many competitions to even start to list them here. Gesha is great coffee, but don't be sold on it without being critical. It's a light bodied, bright, floral coffee, both clean and delicate. If you like dark roast Sumatras, and dislike wet processed Ethiopia or bright Kenyas, Esmeralda Gesha might not be your bag.
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Panama Carmen Estate 1900 Meters

Carmen Estate is a farm we have worked with for many years now. It is located high on the hillside above the large, well known Finca La Florentina. In fact, La Florentina used to buy the coffee cherry from all the surrounding farms to augment their own. La Florentina is down in the flat valley and Carmen Estate is roughly another 500 meters higher up. Carmen is on a very steep hillside with southern exposure, and due to the high altitude, the coffee has greater density, better acidity, a more piquant cup. So in a way, Florentina was getting some better cup quality with Carmen in the mix. But the farm was passed down to the new generation of the Franceschi family, namely Carlos Franceschi Aguilera (Carmen was his grandmother) and he realized that they had a better coffee on their family farm then something to blend with lower-grown coffees. He built an independent micro-mill for the Estate down in the valley using the latest equipment, and began a program to care for the trees using new techniques. This farm uses the de-mucilage process where the mucilage is stripped off the parchment layer using friction, rather than traditional fermentation. I was very impressed with the high altitude and excellent practices of Carlos and Finca Carmen. This coffee has been in the top 10 of the Best of Panama competition too many times to count, from #2 to #5 spot every year in fact. The entire farm is very high altitude; it starts at 1750 meters, an altitude many farms don't even reach, and goes up from there! We have a special arrangement to buy this coffee each year from a particular zone at 1900 meters altitude on the farm, a very small amount of coffee. Altitude matters with coffee, and you can taste the difference here. Altitude allows coffee to ripen slower, creates greater bean density, and results in higher concentrations of bright, snappy, acidity in the cup. I also notice stronger aromatic attributes compared to the lower altitude coffee from the same Estate. This coffee is known for acidity and brightness but this year it cups more like a sweet caramelly coffee, more about the syrupy body than bright, piquant flavors. I was at the competition in Boquete this year as well, and it was the same there when stacked up against all the other Estate coffees (it placed fifth). The dry fragrance has balanced bittersweet notes, brown sugar and shades of cedar. Light roasts have malt and lemon in the wet aroma, but the balanced sweetness comes out at C+ to FC roast, with caramel-laced chocolate cookie character. There's a touch of orange peel on the break, but the cup is all about sweet chocolate and caramel in context with dense mouthfeel. There are still accents of clean cedar wood, malt, a zest of orange peel, and a trace of warming spices in the finish. Note: This is actually quite stunning as an SO espresso as well!



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Carlos and I headed up to the farm, bypassing the bridge washed out by the January storms.
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Volcan, Paso Ancho
Processing: Wet-Processed
Arrival Date: Late July 2009 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Catuai, Caturra, Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Sweetness, caramel, body, balanced brightness.
Roast: City+ to Full City +: The lighter roasts have great balance and dense, rounded mouthfeel. No need to roast dark to get chocolate from this cup.
Compare to: Usually a very bright, clear, crisp coffee, this year the lot has a balance, sweetness and heft, and a bit lower acidity than previous seasons. Carmen ranked #5 in the Best of Panama competition this year.
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Panama Carmen "Siete Dias de Bellota"

Who knew that catastrophic storms would factor into one of the best natural dry-process coffees from Central America we have seen? That's what happened at Carmen Estate this last season. A series of intense (hurricane-like) storms rocked the Chirqui province in North Panama, stripping the coffee trees of fruit and leaves in some areas and sending flood-level waters down the rivers. Carmen estate was protected from the damaging winds but the river that lies between the farm and the mill where the coffee fruit is processed swelled up and washed away the bridge. Power was out for 7 days in mid-January, right when the coffee cherry was in mid-harvest. The only option Carlos and Too (the owner and the farm manager) had was to lay out the whole cherries to dry ...to create a dry-process lot. Amazingly, this coffee has a fantastic cup, and we have named it Los Siete Dias de Bellota: Bellota is the local name for a dry-process coffee, and it means "nut" based on the appearance of a dried whole coffee cherry pod. Usually Bellota is the last coffee strip-picked from the trees, for local consumption, and includes unripe fruits and other damage. But here it refers to all-ripe, red coffee fruit picked at the peak of harvest. It is an extremely different flavor profile than the wet-process Carmen coffee. The dry fragrance has an abundance of chocolate and sweet fruit in the light roasts; apple, peach. In darker roasts it is chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. Wet aromas have a similar shift from light to dark roast levels, and it's one of many ways this coffee is reminiscent of dry-process Ethiopia Sidamo. At C+ roast there is sweet cooked fruit, like peach pie, and at FC+ it is thick layers of chocolate. You might not like this coffee roasted as light as I do (City roast) but the very cleanly fruited cup at this level proves the quality of this coffee, even if you roast it darker to obscure these fruits. It has Sidamo-like peach and dried apricot flavors, even a bit of Yemeni spice, cinnamon in particular. At City roast it has almondy roast tone and round body. At City+ to FC the roast have both fruity notes (mango, melon) and dark milk chocolate. It's an intense SO espresso, with clean tangy chocolate and a very long aftertaste. Overall, the acidity is very mild, which makes this coffee 180 degrees opposite the wet-process Carmen estate 1900 meter lot we have. It would be very, very hard to guess this was even a Central America coffee in a blind cupping, without some prior knowledge!



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Our Bellota dry process lot in storage bags at the Carmen mill, last March.
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Volcan, Paso Ancho
Processing: Dry-Processed
Arrival Date: July 2009 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Catuai, Caturra, Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Bold intensity / Fruit and Chocolate
Roast: City to Full City+: The flavor is greatly transformed by the roast, from light fruit tones to intense chocolate notes. See the review for more details.
Compare to: Ethiopia Sidamo dry process coffees!
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Panama Organic La Berlina Estate Typica

La Berlina is the epitome of classic Central American cup character; clean, sweet, caramel-malt roast taste, creamy body, a refined finish. I have been to this farm several times, and seeing the incredibly old 18 foot tall Typica trees makes it no wonder why the coffee bears this character. It is less acidic than our 1900 meter selection from Carmen Estate, but it makes up for it with this solid balance. Berlina is 100% old Typica cultivar, towering ancient trees, which expresses itself in the cup. And this Organic lot was far better than the samples I cupped of conventional Berlina, from newer plantings on a separate plot on the farm. The cup is balanced, with dry fragrance of cocoa backed by fruited tones and malt sugar (C+ roast), while at FC+ it turns to a rich, bittersweet chocolate. Wet aromatics have a nice sweet cane sugar scent, a soft cherry blossom floral aspect, slightly fruited. It becomes flatly pungent if you roast much into 2nd crack, so try to avoid that. On the break, there is some savory (umami) aroma. The cup has some interesting balance between sweet fruit (berry), body and chocolate. This is the pure varietal character: Typica coffees have classic balance between brightness and body, and an accessible flavor profile (whereas Bourbon types are more dense, compact, tightly knit flavor profiles). There's a caramel-malt sweetness at City+ roast, and creamy mouthfeel. Toffee-praline nut flavors come out as the cup cools. At this stage of roast, City+, the coffee has a fairly wrinkled surface appearance ... but this isn't a beauty contest. That wrinkled appearance can be the optimal degree of roast for brighter cup character. Darker roasts have a very intense chocolate, and some fruited, winey notes are still detectable, but for my money this is yet another City+ roast recommendation. City + (once again) is where you will experience the most of the aspects of this cup which make it so special. I thought my FC roasts of this coffee were too "roasty" and didnt have the sparkle of the C to C+ cup. Still, the darker chocolate character of FC+ was attractive.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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A view of La Berlina (white and red buildings) farm from across the way.
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Boquete
Processing: Wet-Processed
Arrival Date: June 2009 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Old Growth Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Rich aromatically, with caramel-malt sweetness in the cup, creamy body.
Roast: City+ (once again) is where you will experience the most of the aspects of this cup which make it so special. I thought my FC roasts of this coffee were too "roasty" and didnt have the sparkle of the C to C+ cup. Still, the darker chocolate character of FC+ was attractive.
Compare to: Classic bright Central from a pure old growth cultivar -Typica
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Panama Esmeralda Gesha Lot 2 (AKA The Highest Price Lot in the Auction !)

This year, the renowned farm Hacienda Esmeralda in Panama decided to hold an auction for separated lots of their Esmeralda Especial Gesha coffee. This was a mixed blessing: on the one hand this careful separation of Gesha lots by location or plot on the farm, and by harvest date, meant that we could compare and chose based on cup quality. Indeed we found there was a huge range in qualities among the different elevations. On the down side, the competition would drive the best lots to extreme prices. I took this tact: all the Gesha from Esmeralda is exceptional coffee. I wanted to represent the varies tiers of cup quality, so our home roasters could chose a price level that made sense to them. Instead of the $18 price from last year that we paid for standard pooled Esmeralda Gesha, we found an exceptional lot that comes in slightly less, a budget lot at around $10, a fantastic Special Reserve lot of peaberry and ... drum roll ... the top lot in the auction which we offer at a whopping $125 per pound! Each of these have a distinct cup, described below, but all are unmistakably Gesha. Gesha (often spelled, wishfully, as Geisha, but this is not correct) is a cultivar with strong Ethiopian roots. It's rare that a coffee varietal announces itself so clearly in the cup flavors as the Gesha cultivar does in Panamanian coffee. It's extremely floral in the aromatics, with loads of tropical fruit. It is light bodied and delicate on one hand, yet extremely flavorful and long-lasting on the palate. There is no other coffee quite like it. And other farms that have cultivated Gesha don't attain the cup quality of the best Esmeralda Gesha. We have bought this coffee in auction, and farm direct for years. In fact, last year we paid $130/Lb for it at auction! I have awarded it top scores when I was on the judging panel at Best of Panama competition for several years straight. An odd judging issue with this coffee; The Esmeralda Gesha makes blind cupping almost senseless, since I can identify its amazing fragrance, aroma and cup flavors immediately when I come upon it in a "blind" cupping! It is that dry fragrance that lets you know right away what is coming when the water hits the cup: incredible sweet floral, citrus blossom, sweet honey perfume atomized into the air. In terms of intensity, fruited and floral aspects, wet-processed Ethiopians and Kenyas are more in league with Gesha than any other Central American coffee. But it is difficult to price this sort of cup character. And when it is as exotic ...no, extraterrestrial ... as the Esmeralda Gesha, it is even more hard to quantify. In tasting the Gesha coffees, the cup flavors might seem less intense than the extreme aromatics. As the cup cools, perceived intensity and brightness will increase exponentially.

Please note that the Lot Numbers don't indicate quality. Specifically, Lot 10 is superior to Lot 5. The lot numbered 1 in the auction was not the top coffee ... in fact we panned it in our scoring! The lots 1-4 were considered Special Reserve with higher starting bids. But I found Lot 10 to be better than 2 of the "Reserves".

Lot 2 Notes: This was a Special Reserve lot in the auction, had the best cup, and received the highest price. We split this lot with Stumptown Coffee Roasters. This is from a plot described as "North of the Creek" which has yielded some of the best coffees in the past, and was harvested on just 2 days: 4-5 March. The dry fragrance has very refined floral qualities, citrus blossom, sweet lemon, jasmine. Gladly the wet aromatics are super dynamic, floral, and sweet, more so than the lower priced lot 10, and exponentially more than lot 5. Only at the darkest level I tested, right at the verge of 2nd crack, is there noticeably less aroma; I don't recommend roasting that dark. Lot 2 was the highest price paid of any coffee in the Esmeralda Auction, and in fact was the highest price in any auction this year, Cup of Excellence or otherwise. It is brighter that lot 10, with guava and passion fruit brightness, and jasmine floral sweetness. It seems so perfume-like, a distillation of flowers, but with unique piquant fruited high notes. There is both lemon blossom and lime-like touches paired with tropical fruit essences. For such a light bodied, effervescent, perfumey, almost ethereal flavor profile, it has surprising "staying power" on the palate. Just 150 Lbs. in this lot! My score for this lot was 97.5.

Update 5/27/09: I have had the opportunity to cup our Hacienda Esmeralda Gesha vac pack lots (#2, #10) from last year against the new crop, and was surprised at the quality of the '08 coffees. I took the most expensive coffee from the '09 auction home for the weekend, and brewing it every which way, I made coffee I thought was "nice" but nothing that really popped out, nothing I would pay $117 a pound for! It made me think about what I really would pay for a very special coffee, and during the long Memorial Day weekend I came up with a figure, $45 per pound, as a reasonable amount for really top notch, award winning coffee. At that rate, each cup is about $2, which seems like a fair price. And if I roasted a batch that really "nailed it on the head" and another that was a shade too dark, or too light, I wouldn't be all broken up about it. So I decided, given the fact we have a few expensive coffees in vacuum pack that are not selling in this down economy, why not have a $45/Lb. sale? We are offering our formerly $125 Panama Esmeralda Gesha Lot 2 for $45/Lb (without the pound of Lot 10 we were previously pairing it with), and we also have the $92 Guatemala Cup of Excellence #1, El Injerto Pacamara, a blistering-good coffee, at $45 per Lb. We are also reducing the price on Panama Esmeralda Gesha Lot 10 to $13/Lb in anticipation of the '09 lot we bought, which will sell for around $35 per Lb when it arrives. We bought only about 300 pounds of Esmeralda in the auction this year. We have cupped all of these vacuum pack coffees and they are fresh as they day they came in!



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Jaramillo, Boquete, Chirqui State
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: Late July/August 2008
Appearance: 0 to .4 d/300gr, 17-19+ Screen
Varietal: Gesha Cultivar (longberry, Ethiopia-related), also (incorrec
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity overall, but intense aromatics / Floral and fruited aromas, medium-to-light-body, delicate, yet intense on the palate.
Roast: General Esmeralda Gesha Roast: Pungent roast flavors of 2nd crack do harm to what this coffee is really about. This is a "2nd Crack is Taboo" coffee. Try to get it to a City or City+. Full City still has great aromatic complexity and perhaps more balance and body. FC+ is where roast flavors start to eclipse the origin flavors, the floral and fruited notes. It is a large bean, you might need to cut back on the batch size a little. It has a patchy surface color after roasting, don't worry about it. Just grind, brew and enjoy! Refer to the images and comments on my Gesha Roast Pictures page

Lot 2 Roast Tips: City to City+ roast is the range you want to hit here. If it tastes too thin on the initial brewing, allow further resting time, up to 72 hours after roasting, to allow for more balance. It has more potent aromatics after just 12 hours of rest though.
Compare to: The most floral Ethiopia washed (wet-processed) coffees. It's a world class cup, delicate, refined. and the winner of too many competitions to even start to list them here. Gesha is great coffee, but don't be sold on it without being critical. It's a light bodied, bright, floral coffee, both clean and delicate. If you like dark roast Sumatras, and dislike wet processed Ethiopia or bright Kenyas, Esmeralda Gesha might not be your bag.
 
 
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Panama Esmeralda Gesha Lot 3 PB (AKA The Only Peaberry Lot )

Lot 3 Notes: Lot 3 is another Special Reserve lot in the auction, the only peaberry lot offered, and the smallest lot offered in the auction. We split it with Stumptown Coffee Roasters. The fragrance has strong hoppy floral, sweet Meyer lemon. In the cup, it's the lot that was best as a slightly darker roast (and I do mean slight here, Full City, nowhere near 2nd crack). At this stage it has plenty of bright flavors (pink grapefruit, sweet lemon) and floral notes, but with a balanced body and long, clean aftertaste. While it doesn't have the absolute top notes of #2, it has perhaps more complexity and depth, a rounder mouthfeel. Those who might find #2 wonderful, but somewhat light in the body, might discover that the peaberry Lot 3 this as their top coffee of the set. And like lot 2, there are just 150 Lbs in this lot! My score for this lot is 95.3.

Please note that the Lot Numbers don't indicate quality. Specifically, Lot 10 is superior to Lot 5. The lot numbered 1 in the auction was not the top coffee ... in fact we panned it in our scoring! The lots 1-4 were considered Special Reserve with higher starting bids. But I found Lot 10 to be better than 2 of the "Reserves".



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Late July/August 2008
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: Late July/August 2008
Appearance: 0 to .4 d/300gr, 17-19+ Screen
Varietal: Gesha Cultivar (longberry, Ethiopia-related), also (incorrec
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity overall, but intense aromatics / Floral and fruited aromas, medium-to-light-body, delicate, yet intense on the palate.
Roast: Lot 3 Roast Tips: As noted, at a roast level that was light relative to the other lots, this coffee had greater dimension and body. I would recommend City+ roast, but it worked well at FC too. Gesha Roast Pictures page
Compare to: The most floral Ethiopia washed (wet-processed) coffees. It's a world class cup, delicate, refined. and the winner of too many competitions to even start to list them here. Gesha is great coffee, but don't be sold on it without being critical. It's a light bodied, bright, floral coffee, both clean and delicate. If you like dark roast Sumatras, and dislike wet processed Ethiopia or bright Kenyas, Esmeralda Gesha might not be your bag.
 
 
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Panama Esmeralda Gesha Lot 10 (AKA The Gold Standard: Like Last Year's Best Lot)

Lot 10 Notes: This was an outstanding lot that actually shares harvest characteristics with Lot 2: it is from late in the crop when the coffee cherry has matured on the trees for the longest amount of time. This also hints at higher elevation. It was harvested March 24th and 25th, in the area "North and South of the Creek". The dry fragrance is intensely floral, with jasmine and lemon blossom scents. The quality of the wet aroma reminds me of our Esmeralda of past years, and in fact lot 10 is in line price wise with our non-auction Gesha of last season. It's cleaner and sweeter than Lot 5, more dynamic, more floral, with jasmine and a bit of violet flowers. There is great sweetness in this coffee, nectar-like floral sweetness, honeysuckle. It is more floral and less rindy than lot 5, and finishes with a refined orange honey aftertaste. It doesn't hit the high notes quite like #2 or #3, but is clearly in a higher tier than #5. If I was unsure about my predisposition to this cup profile, had not roasted Gesha before, but didn't want to start at the lowest level (lot 5), I would opt for lot 10, absolutely. If it doesn't have that arcane quality that elevates it to 95 points, well heck, it's 92 point coffee and we don't fling around scores like that often around here!!!

Please note that the Lot Numbers don't indicate quality. Specifically, Lot 10 is superior to Lot 5. The lot numbered 1 in the auction was not the top coffee ... in fact we panned it in our scoring! The lots 1-4 were considered Special Reserve with higher starting bids. But I found Lot 10 to be better than 2 of the "Reserves".

My score for this lot is 92.1.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Jaramillo, Boquete, Chirqui State
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: Late July/August 2008
Appearance: 0 to .4 d/300gr, 17-19+ Screen
Varietal: Gesha Cultivar (longberry, Ethiopia-related), also (incorrec
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity overall, but intense aromatics / Floral and fruited aromas, medium-to-light-body, delicate, yet intense on the palate.
Roast: Lot 10 Roast Tips: This lot roasts well between City and Full City. FC roast is going to be a bit diminished in the top end, highest range of flavor, so City+ is recommended. It's an incredibly intoxicating coffee, aromatically and in the sapid sensations, and changes as it rests (increased body and balance). See the above general notes too. Gesha Roast Pictures page
Compare to: The most floral Ethiopia washed (wet-processed) coffees. It's a world class cup, delicate, refined. and the winner of too many competitions to even start to list them here. Gesha is great coffee, but don't be sold on it without being critical. It's a light bodied, bright, floral coffee, both clean and delicate. If you like dark roast Sumatras, and dislike wet processed Ethiopia or bright Kenyas, Esmeralda Gesha might not be your bag.
 
 
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Panama Don Pepe Estate Dry-Process

Here is a controversial coffee, because it flies in the face of tradition. This is a full natural, a dry process coffee, from a great farm in Panama. It's not like any Panama coffee you have had before. The dry fragrance is very rustic, with a roast tone of macadamia nut, and intense fruit. There is an almond-skin scent in the wet aromatics, and coconut paired with chocolate, as well as intense, general fruitiness. The cup is like a sweet, fruited Ethiopia dry-process natural coffee ... immensely fruited but with Central American flair. There are layers of distinct fruits, tamarind, ripe papaya, very ripe pineapple. It's initially floral, has husky, nutty roast tones and has a brightness not often found in naturals from other parts of the world. I get toasted coconut in the finish. This is truly a magnificent coffee that both breaks all the rules of classic "Central American" coffee, and yet is completely an exquisite Panama coffee at it's core. While this coffee might raise the hackles of some coffee tasters who belong to the "clean coffee or else" camp, I must defend it based on this great flavor profile. The mark of a failed dry-process coffee is mustiness, dirt flavors, or rancid flavors. There is none of that here, and while I too don't want all the producers of Central America to stop making their fantastic wet-processed traditional lots, and create non-traditional dry process like this, I do think it's an interesting and valid flavor profile that has a rustic-yet-sweet finish. This is not the result of some careless experiment of accident; to get this cup, great care had to be taken in harvesting only ripe cherry, and prompt drying on raised beds. (Note: We will have Don Pepe Bourbon coffee wet-processed, so you can compare the same coffee, same farm. different process method. The flavor difference is extreme!)





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Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Boquete
Processing: Special Dry-Process
Arrival Date: June 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 16-17 Screen
Varietal: 100% Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Bold intensity/ fruited, nut, toasted coconut flavors
Roast: City+ to Full City is recommended, but the fact is this coffee takes a wide range of roasts and performs well no matter what
Compare to: Much more like a Dry-Process Ethiopia than like any Panama coffees.
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Panama Esmeralda Gesha Lot 5

(AKA The Cheap Lot, Relatively Speaking) We call it the "cheap lot" but that is all relative, in relation to the #2 and #3 lots. It is from specific plots (Hoguera and Frente Poldo) harvested over 2 months, Jan-Feb. It is an early harvest, from early in the crop, and from a lower altitude than #2. Nonetheless, from the very first whiff of the dry fragrance, you know this is a Gesha coffee. There are lemon bright scents that call out the special cultivar. With the wet aroma, you can see in side by side comparison the with more expensive lot 10, and the incredibly expensive lot 2, that the floral Gesha qualities are more muted here. Still, there no mistaking the lemony bright aromatics. The cup flavors are citrusy, with passion fruit tropical flavors as well. The body is light, but suits the coffee well, and there is a mild sweet nut roast tone. This lot is less acidic and more "rindy" in the citrus qualities. Still, I find it very aromatic, sweet, and attractive!





Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Jaramillo, Boquete, Chirqui State
Processing: Wet-Process Style Demucilaged
Arrival Date: Late July/August 2008
Appearance: 0 to .4 d/300gr, 17-19+ Screen
Varietal: Gesha Cultivar (longberry, Ethiopia-related), also (incorrec
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity overall, but intense aromatics / Floral and fruited aromas, medium-to-light-body, delicate, yet intense on the palate.
Roast: This coffee roasts well between City+ and Full City. If you were inclined to take this a little darker, it is certainly the right lot to do it with given the price. But, like the other lots, you will experience more muted citrus bright notes at FC+. See the General Roast Notes too. Gesha Roast Pictures page
Compare to: The most floral Ethiopia washed (wet-processed) coffees. It's a world class cup, delicate, refined. and the winner of too many competitions to even start to list them here. Gesha is great coffee, but don't be sold on it without being critical. It's a light bodied, bright, floral coffee, both clean and delicate. If you like dark roast Sumatras, and dislike wet processed Ethiopia or bright Kenyas, Esmeralda Gesha might not be your bag.
 
 
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Panama WP Decaf -Maunier Estate

It used to be that water decafs were generic coffees; you really couldn't verify that the source coffee was a good cup, or even specialty coffee at all! It was possible for large roasters to send their own lots to Swiss Water for decaffeination, but that was impossible for everyone else. Now we have been able to buy coffees that we cup as regular coffees and verify the quality, then re-cup after decaffeination to see the effect of the process. Maunier is a really nice estate in Boquete that has placed in the Panama Coffee Competition in years past. As a Water Process decaf, it really preserves the primary cup character, the acidity and brightness of the cup. It has good sweetness, with some hint that it is decaf in the dry fragrance, but plenty of sweetness intrinsic to high grown Boquete coffees as well. My City + roast has lemony accents in the wet aroma and in the cup as well, with some very clean floral jasmine character too. The roast tone is praline almond. In the finish, that slightly malty decaf hint is there (not a bad thing), and it ends with good lemony brightness as well. It's a remarkably clean flavor profile and right in line with it's non-decaf Maunier estate counterpart.





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Shade-grown coffee plot in Panama
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Boquete
Processing: Wet-processed, Water-process decaf
Arrival Date: Dec 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Catuai
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Bright lemon and floral
Roast: City+ is ideal to keep in the strong suit of this cup profile: sweet and bright.
Compare to: Floral and citric decaf Central with medium body.
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Panama Carmen Estate 1800+ Meters

Carmen Estate is a farm located high on the hillside above the large, well known Finca La Florentina. In fact, La Florentina used to buy the coffee cherry from all the surrounding farms to augment their own, but this was done for more than increasing the volume. The fact is, La Florentina is down in the flat valley and Carmen Estate roughly another 500-600 meters higher up. Carmen is on a very steep hillside with southern exposure, and due to the high altitude, the coffee has greater density, better acidity, a more piquant cup. So in a way, Florentina was getting some better cup quality with Carmen in the mix. But the farm was passed down to the new generation of the Franceschi family, namely Carlos Franceschi Aguilar (Carmen was his grandmother) ... and he realized that they had a better coffee on their family farm then something to blend with lower-grown coffees. He built an independent mill for the Estate down in the valley using the latest equipment, and began a program to care for the trees using new techniques. This farm uses the de-muscilage process where the mucilage is stripped off the parchment layer using friction, rather than traditional fermentation. I was very impressed with the high altitude and excellent practices of Carlos and Finca Carmen. This coffee won the #3 spot in the Best of Panama competition in 2003, 2004 and #2 in 2005 #3 in 2006, and 4th in '07 - a proven winning coffee. The entire farm is very high altitude; it starts at 1450, an altitude many farms don't even reach, meters and goes up from there! We have a special arrangement to buy this coffee each year from the 1800+ meter altitude on the farm, a very small amount of coffee. Altitude matters, with coffee, and you can taste the difference here. Altitude allows coffee to ripen slower, creates greater bean density, and results in higher concentrations of bright, snappy, acidity in the cup. I also notice stronger aromatic attributes compared to the lower altitude coffee from the same Estate. The cup has sweetly fruited and citrus aromas at City roast, with clean fruited aromatic components; peach, apple and lemon floral components. The wet aroma is crystal clear and bright, with grain and nut hints at this light roast stage. These become more distinct in the cup flavors: lightly malted barley, a sweet nuttiness, and a buttery mouthfeel. The finish is piquant, clean, and leaves a sharp, distinct aftertaste. This is a crisp and nutty cup at City to City+, the roasts where the "origin flavors" are most distinct. If that is too snappy, too acidic for you, you can get great sharp pungency with a "toned down" acidity from an FC+ roast, where nutty roast tones turn to soft chocolate. I have cupped our special lot against "regular" Carmen estate coffees, and other micro-region Paso Ancho coffees from the same mill, and feel this definitely has a more dynamic, lively and clean cup than the others. That's good, because we pay a lot more for the 1800+ meter coffee!



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Volcan, Paso Ancho
Processing: Wet-Processed
Arrival Date: June 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Roast: City+ is ideal. See the notes above about brightness and acidity with FC roasts.
Compare to: Brighter and (therefore) bolder than other Panamas. Almost Kenya-like brightness! See my Best of Panama travelogues for pictures of the 1800+ meter plot where our coffee comes from. This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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Panama Boquete Lerida Estate Peaberry

Lerida Estate is synonymous with Boquete, and with fine Panama coffee. The farm is owned by the Collins family, as it has been since the beginning. And these people are serious about coffee and about Lerida. Compliment John Collins that his Lerida is the archetypal Boquete cup profile (bright, clean, nuanced, sweet) and he will look at you with disdain. "Lerida is NOT a Boquete coffee: Lerida is LERIDA." What does that mean (besides the fact that a certain somebody needs to spend a little more time among human beings rather than coffee trees). I don't know what it means really; I guess Lerida is incomparable. And I agree, it is more than a benchmark for Boquete, but with the auction-winning Lerida lots we bought 5-7 years ago I learned what truly great Central coffee was about. And here it is again this year: Lerida at it's best. The dry fragrance has clear floral and citric character, as well as a strong malt-like sweetness verging on caramel. This sweet character, with hints of hop flowers and jasmine comes through in the aroma, and cup flavors too. What a nice, crisp, lively, floral and lightly fruited cup. Lemon wafer cookies ... that's what I think about when this cup cools, but I can't decide precisely because there's a bit of 'Nilla Wafer cookies in there too. This is the the definition of fine, clean Boquete coffee! Well-defined lemon essence lingers above an low-level caramel sweetness, and right through the aftertaste. Refined but in no way uninteresting, citrus blossom aftertaste lingers. It's fairly mild coffee overall, and very approachable. The body is light, but gains points for its syrupy texture. As it cools, it opens up, and gives more access to it's special character. The brightness and slightly rindy citrus of the year's Lerida peaberry is reminiscent of Kenya, oddly. It's a nice cup!



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Coffee drying screens at Finca Lerida.
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB, Peaberry
Region: Boquete
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: December 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17 PB Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Catuai
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Delicate-yet-persistent citrus and floral elements
Roast: City+ (once again) is where you will experience the most citrus and floral aspects of this cup, which is, after all, what makes it so special. Frankly, this coffee is fantastic anywhere after 1st crack through early 2nd crack.
Compare to: Classic bright Central with an extremely refined (but not boring) character. This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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Panama Boquete Lerida Estate "Miel"

Lerida Estate is synonymous with Boquete, and with fine Panama coffee. The farm is owned by the Collins family, as it has been since the beginning. And these people are serious about coffee and about Lerida. This is a first though, a "miel" coffee (AKA Honey coffee, AKA Pulp natural). Instead of their wet-process/fermentation method, with a pulp natural coffee the skin of the coffee cherry is removed and then the parchment coffee is allowed to sun dry. The process can be done with a traditional pulper, or also with one of the new demucilage machines adjusted to leave any desired percentage of fruit sticking to the parchment shell. The results of this method allow for some subtle changes based on the technique used, and how much fruity mucilage is allowed to remain on the parchment-coated green bean. It also requires effective, rapid sun-drying, and to this end the farm uses raised beds in the African style, so air can circulate all around the coffee. Lerida has always done fully washed, traditional coffees, and this cup is quite a bit different than what we have offered from Lerida Estate before. The level of acidity is much lower, while the body is greater. The dry fragrance has an interesting, balsamic-like maltyness. The wet aromatics are mildly fruity (ripe pineapple, passiflora) and have a winey accent. The cup is not so fruity, but very creamy in mouthfeel. There's a roasted hazelnut roast tone (C+ roast level), and a beeswax quality in sweetness and volatile aromatic/flavor. It finishes muted and balanced. Cupping it side by side with wet-processed estate Lerida, with all it's citrus acidity, you can see that it is quite a difference that processing makes. Note: This makes outstanding Single Origin, Single Farm espresso! Recommended roast is around FC+ and allow several days rest after roasting (resting is essential). Once again, please note this is not the traditional wet-process Lerida Estate coffee we stock (the peaberry). That should be coming late in the season.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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The mill and bodega at Finca Lerida.
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB, Peaberry
Region: Boquete
Processing: Pulp-Natural-Processed
Arrival Date: July 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Catuai
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / balance, fruit aromas, creamy body
Roast: City+ to FC+.. We tested this a bit light, and will re-roast with a bit of 2nd crack; it seems like it will do well with more roast too
Compare to: A very different version of Lerida estate coffee, balanced, softer, toned down. This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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Panama Volcancito Don Pepe Bourbon

Don Pepe is a 4 generation coffee farm in the Boquete area, founded by one of the early settlers to the area, Don Enrique Vsquez, in 1899. They had Bourbon cultivar planted on this farm for many years, but were not separating it from the other, newer types of seedstock. What's the difference? Well, it's it that Bourbon cultivar will result in a superior cup than other types, such as the more productive Catuai type. But over the long term, the cup will usually be better, perhaps a result of the fact that Bourbon produces less, can live longer, and is generally less stressed than other types. In particular, full-sun varieties result in highly-productive yet short-lived coffee shrubs that tax the soils, and, I believe, have poorer cup character. Productive Catimor types are the rabbit, and Bourbon is the tortoise, to make an analogy. This cup has classic, balanced Bourbon cup character as well: There is ample vanilla, dark berry hints, and a unique malty, balsamic rice smell in the dry fragrance. The wet aroma is almost excessively sweet! Toffee, vanilla, caramel, malt syrup; all abundantly present. The cup has a more restrained sweetness, malty in nature. It is the creamy body and balance that strikes me. Berry-like brightness, moderate chocolate notes, caramel malt ... they all seem embedded in this buttery body in perfect proportion. As it cools the aftertaste has toffee sweetness, and the body seems even more buttery and creamy. While this flavor profile is not as exotic as a Gesha coffee, I would drink this day in and day out ... such a solid cup, well-structured, delicious!



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Boquete
Processing: Wet-Process
Arrival Date: October 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: All Bourbon separation
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Great balance, sweetness, body
Roast: City+ to FC+ ; I enjoyed the roast notes at Full City roast, and with a dense coffee like this, you can certainly go darker. It has a wide latitude, and works at all roast levels, really.
Compare to: Classic Central cup, great brightness, sweetness and body, all in fine proportion. This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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Panama Boquete Golden Peaberry

This was one of those happy, simple and rare coffee encounters � this lot basically fell on my lap. Well, to rewind a bit, we have been buying Lerida Estate peaberry for a few years and the mill who prepares that lot has some sense of what we look for in Panama coffee; vivid brightness, intensity, clean cup, character. So when this so-called Boquete Golden Peaberry dropped from the heavens I was quite happy. Golden? Hmm ... it's a pale, opaque turquoise green to me. But heck, they called it Golden when they sent the sample so Golden it is. It lacks the pedigree too; it's from 3 Boquete estates that were screened to remove PB at the request of Japanese buyers. Why? I don't know. Theoretically, when you cull out all one size of coffee, or remove all the peaberries, you end up with less physical and botanical diversity in the seeds your roast, and possibly more homogeneity in the cup. This selection of peaberry flies in the face of that notion, because it is quite viscous in body, and dimensional in the cup. The dry grounds have a strong intensity, fruited with a bit of fig, dark honey sweetness and butterscotch. The wet aroma has malty grain sweetness, a hint of fresh hay (not often a good thing in coffee, but here I mean it as a compliment), and a lot of honey. The cup flavors follow this same theme; balanced, syrupy, honey sweetness, toasted wheat and malt (C to C+roast), with the addition of a "peach tea" fruit dimension to the flavor profile. Honestly, I am getting some Snapple flavors here! The sample roasts stood up to a darker treatment too, and remained sweet through FC+ roast. Throughout, there are lemon accents to the bright end of the cup flavors, and "homemade honey lemonade" is an impression I am left with in the aftertaste. At C+ roast, I hope you get these flavors too, because as the coffee rests (3 days post roast) it really blossoms.





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Country: Panama
Grade: SHB, Peaberry
Region: Boquete
Processing: Wet-Processed
Arrival Date: June 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 PB Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Catuai
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Balance, honey and grain sweetness, brightness
Roast: City+ (once again) is where you will experience the brightest and most dimensional cup, which is, after all, what makes it so special. Frankly, this coffee is fantastic anywhere after 1st crack through early 2nd crack.
Compare to: Classic bright Central with balance and good honey sweetness
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Panama Boquete WP Decaf "Panamaria"

It used to be that water decafs were generic coffees; you really couldn't verify that the source coffee was a good cup, or even specialty coffee at all! It was possible for large roasters to send their own lots to Swiss Water for decaffeination, but that was impossible for everyone else. Now we have been able to buy coffees that we cup as regular coffees and verify the quality, then re-cup after decaffeination to see the effect of the process. Panamaria is a really nice mix of Boquete Estate coffees that has placed in the Panama Coffee Competition in years past. As a Water Process decaf, it really preserves the primary cup character, the acidity and brightness of the cup. This is a sweet little cup, delicate, floral, a little simple but really nice! It's just amazing how much of the delicate brightness of the excellent Panamaria coffee is preserved after the decaffeination process. The fragrance and aroma have both citrus and floral elements. The cup has a light body, and great zesty brightness. Lemon and jasmine blossom come through. The aftertaste is crisp and brief, which suits this bright, refreshing cup character quite well.





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Shade-grown coffee plot in Panama
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Boquete
Processing: Wet-processed, Water-process decaf
Arrival Date: August 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Red Catuai, Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Bright, crisp
Roast: City+ is ideal to keep in the strong suit of this cup profile: crisp and bright.
Compare to: Floral and citric Central with light body.
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Panama Guyami Indian Robusta Rustico

Panama Robusta??? Yes, and the story behind this coffee is quite remarkable. Basically, it is grown in extremely remote areas by the Guyami indian group, and the way it gets to the coffee mill is amazing. But let me describe the cup first. This robusta coffee can be brewed as filter coffee or a French Press (ideal), and is ideal for people who like super-potent coffees such as Sumatras, aggressive, low-toned types roasted to Full City or darker. It does quite well with a bit of (gasp) half and half, and also has added crema and body to espresso tests I performed, up to around 15% of a blend. The preparation of this coffee is quite good, since it is delivered to one of the best mills in Panama for final sorting. But to appreciate this lot, you need to hear the history, and the crazy journey it takes ...The robusta plants came to the Atlantic side of Panama, to the region of Bocas del Toro, as an experiment done by the United Fruit Company /Chiquita Banana during the early years of the twenty century. Bananas proliferated in the easement land beside railroad lines granted to these big companies, and what better way to capitalize on the land, and on any empty freight, than grow banana for export to the US. And why not try lower-grown Robusta coffee as well? The Robusta spread along the coast of Bocas del Toro by the native pickers for the Banana Company: They were familiar with coffee since they were harvesting some in the mountains of Boquete. They took along some beans to roast and drink at their houses in the coast and also started some trees for themselves. In this way, significant amounts of coffee began to be cultivated in small backyard orchards together with cacao trees. The coffee is grown Organically (certified for Europe only at this time). The processing used by the Guyami is like no other ...Robusta is so hard to pulp off the skins that the indians are submerging the bags of picked cherry in a creek for one day to soften the exterior. After they remove the skin, they ferment for 12 hours to loosen the mucilage, rinse the coffee, then wash it again in the river, and dry the parchment on canvas. When they accumulate about 200 pounds of dried parchment (= about 120 Lbs of finished coffee), they paddle it downriver in canoes to the coast on canoes to the Beach of the Wales. Bags are collected onto bigger boat and sail to the port on the Bay of Almirante. From there the coffee travels by public bus (!) to David, and then 2 hours to Boqete where it is dry-milled. What a journey! Our friend Plinio who initiated the project with the Guyami emailed me that "We will find more information for you if the indians contact us."
SCORING NOTE: I don't score robusta coffees (the scoring system is made for arabicas)



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

Robusta coffee shrub.
Country: Panama
Grade: n/a
Region: Bocas del Toro area
Processing: Washed in a river, dried on canvas
Arrival Date: May 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .8 d/300gr, 17-19 Screen
Varietal: Coffea Canephora (Robusta)
Intensity/Prime Attribute: BOLD / Crema, bittersweet pungent flavors
Roast: This depends on your use, but I would say that robustas need a minimum of Full City+ meaning the coffee has audibly reached 2nd crack.
Compare to: A completely unique source, unique process method ? what other coffee takes the public bus to get to the mill? Can be brewed as a potent French Press coffee, and a bit of cream (ahem!) sweetens the cup. This coffee is part of our Farm Gate pricing transparency program.