Coffee from Panama was historically under-rated and overlooked, but not any longer. That perception has been corrected in recent years with the Best of Panama competition held each year, attracting global competition for the best lots and garnering spectacular prices. The Gesha cultivar produced in some small coffee estates has also garnered heaps of attention for its unique floral cup character.
We have offered Esmeralda Especial Gesha for a decade now. Gesha (often spelled, wishfully, as Geisha) is a cultivar with strong Ethiopian roots. It's rare that a coffee variety announces itself so clearly in the cup flavors as the Gesha cultivar does in Panamanian coffee. Extremely floral in the aromatics, with loads of tropical fruit, 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 often attain the cup quality of the best Esmeralda Gesha. 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.
This particular Gesha from Esmeralda is always a treat, with such a complex profile of florals, fruits, and sweetness. It goes without saying that we eagerly await the arrival every year! The dry fragrance smells of sweet red berries, ripe cherry, and a delicate floral accent, almost like fresh hopped beer. The wet aroma has tons of jasmine, browns sugars, honey, cinnamon stick, and soft milk chocolate at slightly darker roast levels. There's also a candy sweet smell of watermelon that reminds me of gummy candies. The cup has light, but juicy body, and 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 the profile blows wide open. It's no surprise that the cup is floral - SO floral. There's an undeniable jasmine flavor that weaves it's way throughout the well-knit flavors of fruit and spices. Ripe melons are a big presence, as well as a nectarine, plum, and passion fruit. Spice notes flourish with cinnamon stick and a note of coriander, and the acidity verges on effervescent. This is definitely a coffee that fares best outside of Full City, in the City - City+ roast range.
Don K is a short name for 'Don Koyner', or Senor Koyner. Senor Koyner refers to Alexander Koyner MacIntyre who emigrated from Canada to Panama in the early 1900's to purse coffee farming. He bought a large swath of land in what is now Volcancito de Boquete, in Northern Panama's Chiriqui Province and began to produce cherry. He also built the Kotowa wet mill for processing which is widely considered to be the oldest coffee processing station in all of Panama. The original wooden processing equipment is still maintained for show at the mill by Ricardo Koyner, Alexander's grandson who know owns and operates the coffee farms and mill. Don K is immediately adjacent to the Koyner's organic farm Duncan Estate which creates an interesting display of organic vs. conventional production methodology. Although several of each farm's slopes face the Pacific Ocean and Boquete Valley differently, and therefore having different exposure to daylight, its about as good a glimpse into tasting something processed in both manners that I have seen in the coffee world. Although scoring is often within a point or two of each other, each farm displays unique flavor from the other.
This lot from Don K is aromatically sweet with the dry fragrance vacillating between fresh honey and toasted hazelnut, and with a backdrop of spices like dried ginger and cardamom. Wetting the grounds really brings on strong smells of butter caramel and fresh cream - so sweet and prevalent. Breaking the crust gives off a smell of milk chocolate in the steam with a hint of macadamia nut. There's a "freshness" to the cup, with an acidity that borders on effervescent. Crisp, Granny Smith apple and freshly spun honey come to mind while the cup is warm which cools into sweeter red apple and concord grape in the finish. Full City roasts also has sweet plum and malic fruits with a nice, cocoa bittering finish. In general this coffee roasts and cups great at a wide variety of roast levels. The mouthfeel on, while creamy, is medium bodied which allows for the sweetness and higher notes to shine.