A high-grown micro-lot from Carmen Estate, it is a surprisingly balanced coffee. Light body, lively and brightness are the context for sweet roast notes with caramel, brown sugar, tangerine, lemon. Accents of vanilla, malt, orange peel. City+ to Full City.
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.