Sweet Maria's Home Coffee Roasting

Panama Coffee Competition 2006 Volcan, Bambito

The Specialty Coffee Association of Panama holds their own "Best of Panama" competition each year, and I have been part of the jury 3 times in the past. For the fourth time, April 2006, I decided on a new approach. First, I decided that it would enhance my tasting skills to take the absolute worst flight from San Francisco to Panama that I could possibly find ... for what would make coffee taste better than arriving with severe sleep deprivation. For this, I chose TACA airlines, the air transport equivalent of the "local bus" that stops every other block. You leave SFO at 1:45 in the morning, and arrive in David Panama 18 hours and 5 flights later, bruised, dehydrated, catatonic, and ready to taste the finest that Panama has to offer. Annoyingly, it seemed that then event organizers were determined to distract me from focusing on the coffee. I noticed immediately the sly psychological tactics used to draw attention away from what was in the cup (fragrance, aroma, flavor, aftertaste) and refocus it on peripheral distractions. First, there were the cupping tables, at least 4 feet tall, and the support staff, dressed in bright orange, and uniformily 4 feet 3 inches tall. Did they think I wouldn't notice? I saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I know what's going on here. Then I saw how efficient the event was organized this year. Everything was perfect, in fact, a little too perfect. In itself, the"perfectishness" of the surroundings was another way they were trying to get me to forget about the coffee, to lure attention away, toward other things. But to what end? And the cupping form ... what's up with that? I am used to the 8 part Cup of Excellence cupping form, and the 10 part SCAA cupping form, so why they 23 part form with 6 pages and a short essay section ... for each coffee? Isn't this going too far? And last of all, the other "judges." I know a lot of people in the coffee world, but I didn't recognize the majority of these "coffee tasters". And the ones I did know, well, something just wasn't right. I have heard of the CIA's School of the Americas, so I know the way things work. I am not a naive dupe, who thinks "everything is as it seems," but I was surprised at the level of chicanery ... no, that is too light of a word ... nefariousness, nefariousity, nefararacily. And I can't even talk about the other things I saw ... like a certain unnamed cupper from Green Mountain handing a note to a certain person from Intelligentsia with what looked like secret blending formulas (I read something like this: 5 parts of part 1, blend with 3 parts of part 2 ... and so on). And then the guy from Stumptown was launching paper airplanes around the cupping room that read "I am so going to kick your *%#." Then Green Mountain was making offers to buy Intelligentsia, and Peets offered to buy Stumptown, and Stumptown was trying to buy Boyds, who wasn't even there. And they all were telling me how home roasting is the next "big thing" and they are all launching home roasting web sites and their own no-brainer, smoke-free home roasting machines. And all this was to prevent me, a guy who just wants to cup good coffee, from focusing on the task at hand. But to the chagrin of all, I WAS able to cup through all this, and I wound up winning the "Best Coffee Cupper" award, which turned out to be a year's subscription of roasted coffee from either Green Mountain Newman's Own K-Cup Coffee or Peets E-Cup Major Eric Dickerson's. What's going on with that??? So below, in 2 pages of photos, is the unadulterated truth of what really happened in Panama at the coffee comeptition, April 2006. Crime and Intrigue? Hardly. Worth a few minutes of your time? Sure, why not.

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Panama, Panama, Panama ... 2006 Best of Panama coffee cupping competition. a clue to the pronunciation here: an accent on the ma. it's pan-a-MA!
Usual photo of the judges... lotsa judges.
... the judges butts. Don Holly is not falling for it.
All the folks who assisted in the cupping event.
I noticed a poster on the dreaded coffee broca which came to Panama about five years ago. It only effects the lower grown coffees.
Lampa, musica, tv controls. the lamp works.
Cups after a round of cupping
The butt chair, hotel bambito.
Fine, fine house where we had a lunch in Volcan, Panama
Francisco Serracin of Don Pache estate - the original farm with Gesha cultivar, brought from an experimental garden in Costa Rica. Duane of stumptown and myself, brown shirted, bought this coffee in the 2005 auction.
flowers, fog
Kustom Bus - green and aqua was the theme, with super tuff green fog lights. Cerro Punto rocks.
The touble with tribbles? They were all slaughtered to provide a fuzzy aqua window garnish for the Cerro Punta express.
Mmmm? or iccchhh! This at the wonderful Cerro Bruja gore-met restaurant which can be found in a little house, up a little dirt road, outside of Volcan.
Caturra, 1 year old, planted at Carmen Estate new plot, 2006 meters.
Bamboo, carmen estate. I like bamboo...
Is it native chusquea? It is a climbing bamboo. Is it guadea? I do not know...
Soil on Carmen Estate needs calcium, not organic calcium, but mineral calcium. There is a difference.
Our coffee, 1800 meters and up, from Carmen Estate
Another view of the high plot at Carmen Estate where our coffee comes from.
Green unripe cherry and flowers. Carmen Estate has a lot of catuai rojo, but this appeared to be caturra
More beautiful, fresh coffee flowers...
more fresh coffee flowers.
Amazing tree on Carmen Estate providing shade for cofffee trees.
Forest at Finca Carmen
A close up view of another amazing tree.
Underside of a fallen leaf
Catuai at the lower altitudes (1400 meters) at Carmen Estate, Volcan, Panama
Darn big typica tree
Roadside view at Paso Ancho, Volcan area, with the Baru volcano in the distance
Watch out, neighborhood vigilantes have their eye on you (literally).
The neighborhood store, owned by a relative of Carlos
Stocking up the shop
Hanging out on the street corner
Keychain tags for sale in Volcan.

Yes. there is more.

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