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!