What’s Brewing: Panama Elida Estate Green-tip Geisha

Having recently published a post on generosity, how I came to brew some of this amazing coffee also fits that exact sentiment.

I was kindly given 100 grams or so of this coffee from the award-winning Elida Estate in Panama by current 2015 Queensland Barista Champion Adam Metelmann (Twitter, Instagram). To say I have been pretty lucky lately is somewhat of an understatement.

What follows is a little about this great region, farm and coffee, along with an attempt at describing how the best coffee I have had to date tasted in the cup.

The Region

The Boquete region of Panama is, according to Wikipedia: “in the green mountain highlands of Panama, in western-most Chiriquí Province, about 60 kilometres from the border with Costa Rica. Because of its elevation … its climate is cooler than that of the lowlands. Its scenic location, temperature, and natural environment make it popular with Panamanians and attracts tourists from all over the world”.

Lonely Planet calls it the Napa Valley of coffee(?!):

Boquete is known throughout Panama for its cool, fresh climate and pristine natural setting. Flowers, coffee, vegetables and citrus fruits flourish in Boquete’s rich soil

Onto the farm and coffee itself:

The Coffee

Elida Estate is of course located in the Boquete region of Panama, and lies in the shadow of the active Baru volcano (3475m). At 1700 – 2500m above sea level, it is the highest coffee farm in Panama.

Because of the high altitudes where the coffee is grown the beans are very dense and uniform and they are mild with a medium body, good aroma and high acidity. These estate coffees are considered among the best in the world.

The Lamastus family have been farming coffee in Panama since 1918, of whom three generations continue to run the farm (and nearby El Burro Estate) today.

Sun drying in drying screens (bastidores) has been a Family Tradition.  Robert Louis Lamastus (dark clothes, 4th from left) and Elida (sitting) owners of Elida Estate, picture taken in 1932. Image courtesy Boquete Coffee.
Sun drying in drying screens (bastidores) has been a Family Tradition.  Robert Louis Lamastus (dark clothes, 4th from left) and Elida (sitting) owners of Elida Estate, picture taken in 1932. Image courtesy Boquete Coffee.

The details:

  • Farm Name: Elida Estate Coffee
  • Coffee Name: Elida Geisha Natural
  • International Jury Cupping Score: 91.90
  • Crop Year(s): March 2014
  • Variety: Geisha
  • Process: Natural
  • Elevation: 1800m (farm up to 2,200m)
  • Growing Region: Alto Quiel, Boquete
  • Owner/Exporter/Mill: Lamastus Family

Information above courtesy Stoneworks Specialty Coffee Auction

An interesting detail on how the “green-tip” came to be, from Verve Coffee Roasters:

Verve’s green buyer, Colby Barr, determined that the coffee from the green-tipped plants produced a far superior cup compared to those of the bronze-tipped plants. Subsequently Thatcher Lamastus separated these premium beans, and by doing so, the advent of an entirely new cultivar.

I’d bet on the fact the “bronze-tip” wouldn’t be too bad in the cup either!

The Brew

FullSizeRender 12The coffee Adam so kindly provided me with was a filter roast, and as such I brewed through the Hario V60 drip filter. Although I have been writing these posts and sampling many different coffees over the past few years, the following probably isn’t as technically sound a description as you’d get elsewhere, however I think I’ll get the message across.

This is simply the best coffee I have ever had — bar none.

Opening the bag was like sticking my face into fresh fruit salad, let alone the aroma after grinding (complex fruit and berry notes).

In general, medium in body, with the complexity, richness and depth of flavour the first thing to stand out, yet maintaining a clean, crisp character at the same time. As for specific flavours, the most prominent in my limited range was pineapple, perhaps a little orangey citrus, with some smooth berry notes coming through as well.

If I compare it to some of the better coffees I have had in the past, probably the most noticeable aspect was in relation to the flavour change over time as the brew cooled. Most of the coffees I try routinely change as this occurs, some quite substantially. The green-tip? Not so much, and rather than peak in what is sometimes a fairly narrow range, maintained the same rich complex flavours all the way through — an absolute joy from start to finish.

The Finish

I think it is quite apparent how much I enjoyed this coffee, and remain thankful for the opportunity to have tried it. Reading a little about the farm and family, it is no surprise such high quality comes out of Elida Estate on a consistent basis.

IMG_3309I’d highly recommend a little further reading for the full Elida Estate Story:

The Lamastus Family Estates

Best of Panama 2014 Grower Profile

Speciality Coffee Association of Panama Member Profile

With cupping underway in the Best of Panama 2015 at the time of writing, I am sure more fantastic coffee will be coming from the region — the only problem will be getting your hands on some.

A very special thank you to Adam Metelmann for generously providing me with both the opportunity to try this wonderful coffee, and happily sharing his knowledge about the farm and its owners. Adam can be found serving what I would consider the best coffee in Brisbane at Strauss in Elizabeth St in the CBD


Advertisements

What’s Brewing: Guatemala Don Antonio

Whilst things seem to have been all Santa Clara lately in terms of Guatemalan coffees, this offering from the Don Antonio farm in the Huehuetenango region has certainly been no less enjoyable in the cup.

There have been some fine central American varieties on offer at Ministry Grounds in recent times. The latest newsletter being no exception, containing no less than fifteen coffees, largely from El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama, with a few Cup of Excellence varieties to boot. Choosing which one or two (or few) to buy will be the next challenge.

The Region

The Huehuetenango municipality lies in the highlands west of Guatemala City, towards the Mexican border (map below courtesy Worldlink). Huehuetenango (originally called Xinabahul in the Mam language) was originally a Mayan settlement.

guatemala_map

Many people of Mam descent still live in and around Huehuetenango, and the nearby ruins of Zaculeu have become a tourist attraction. These ruins are markedly distinct from other Mayan archeological sites; the original unearthed stones, comprising only a small portion of the original structures, were coated with plaster during restoration works carried out in the 1940s. There is also a small museum at Zaculeu which includes statues and small artifacts found on the site.

image.php

Information and Image above Courtesy Wikipedia

The Coffee

  • Coffee: Guatemala Don Antonio
  • Altitude: 1700 – 2000 mtrs
  • Crop Year: 2013
  • Varietal: Bourbon
  • Processing: Washed

The Sanchez family commenced their coffee business in 1966, with current owner Antonio (Don Antonio) taking over from his father and continuing to run the farm, located in the district of San Pedro Carcha, Huehuetenango.

Information courtesy Ministry Grounds Coffee

Brew Methods

Aeropress, Hario V60

Impressions

I had originally planned on roasting this a little darker for use in the espresso machine, however the planned filter roast that day (an Ehtiopian Yirgacheffe) got away from me a little and inherited the espresso roast somewhat by default. Therefore, to avoid filter withdrawal, a lighter roast for the Don Antonio it was. I cannot say I am overly sorry, as the Yirgacheffe has made a great morning latte (good body, hint of chocolate with a nice berry finish) this past week.

As for the Guatemalan? More below.

There are times when I feel like a good, full-bodied brew. Sure, the Don Antonio is certainly not as bright nor clean as the Santa Clara was, and perhaps suits a diner mug more than a stylish glass, though for me, there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Overall, through the aeropress or the V60, this is a very well-balanced, enjoyable cup of coffee.

The flavours are quite subtle, with a little caramel and brown sugar, a hint of apple, and perhaps a some stone fruit, though I could not get any more specific than that. Whilst some were no doubt downing 6-packs during the recent Australian Rules Football Grand Final over the weekend, my viewing was accompanied by a jug of Don Antonio, brewed through the Hario V60

As I have noted in the past, the Aeropress probably blunts some of those subtle flavours a little, however this coffee was a welcome daily addition to kick off the 4pm hour of power at the office through to knock-off time.

Final Thoughts

Probably the impression I have given above is that this Guatemalan Don Antonio coffee is a less than subtle variety perhaps better suited to a filer pot. That could not be further from the truth. The fact is, each and every cup brewed (with a few left to go), has been thoroughly enjoyable, and if I were given this as the only coffee I could drink for a year, I would not be disappointed, perhaps just a little uninspired – eventually.

What’s Brewing: Guatemala Santa Clara

It’s a great time to sample some superb Guatemalan coffee in Brisbane at the moment, and I have also been in on the act by roasting some myself. Cup Coffee have a Santa Clara showcase of sorts, currently offering washed, honey and fully natural processed versions for sale, many of which have also found their way into a cup or two at Strauss Café & Bar in the CBD.

On a recent order of green beans from Ministry Grounds, I picked up some of the fully washed Santa Clara to roast and brew at home.

Coffee

  • Guatemala City (Image courtesy Wikipedia)
    Guatemala City (Image courtesy Wikipedia)

    Guatemala Santa Clara

  • City: Antigua
  • Altitude: 1600–1830m above sea level
  • Variety: Bourbon
  • Processing: Fully Washed and patio dried
  • Owner: Zelaya family

The farm has been managed since 1988 by Ricardo Zelaya, the 4th generation of the Zelaya family to have produced coffee at Santa Clara. The Zelaya family has been growing coffee for over 100 years and four generations. This renowned family owns farms throughout Guatemala and grows one of only a handful of genuine ‘Antigua’ coffees (coffees grown in the Antigua valley area bounded by three volcanoes – Agua, Acatenango and Fuego).

Information courtesy Ministry Grounds

While tracking down some information for this post, I also came across a brief interview with the owner of the Santa Clara Farm, Ricardo Zelaya, conducted when he visited Melbourne in 2013. He talks about managing the farm, plans for the future, and how he drinks his coffee. You can find it on the Market Lane Coffee blog.

Brew Methods

Hario V60 Filter, Aeropress, Espresso (+ Kalita Wave at Strauss Café & Bar)

Impressions

As I mentioned earlier, this shade grown coffee is processed by both wet and dry methods, and if you can, it is a worthwhile endeavour to sample both.

As I have now begun roasting each coffee more specifically for espresso and filter based consumption, this and most future posts will discuss my impressions from this perspective (that is, two separate roast batches with different roast profiles). In the past, I have written on the basis of a single roast profile for all types of drinks.

As a morning latte or flat white, the Santa Clara performed really well in milk. It created a creamy, smooth drink, with a good chocolatey base, and some of the fruity flavours peeking through as well. A very, very enjoyable way to start the day. As espresso, also very enjoyable, a bright cup, with a pleasant level of acidity, medium body and a lovely creamy mouthfeel.

The filter roast performed equally well in the Aeropress and V60 Pourover, the V60 resulting in a more delicate, refined brew as expected. Both demonstrated a fresh, bright cup, again the acidity was pleasant, with enough body to make a great “winter warming” brew consumed sitting in the sun on a cool winter afternoon. This perhaps clouded my judgement of the Aeropress (consumed at my office desk), given sitting in the backyard sunshine carries an obvious environmental advantage! Again, nice fruity flavours with chocolate and citrus in both forms of brewing.

Finally, a brief mention of my thoughts on the variety of processing options on offer at Strauss Café & Bar, which were all sampled through the Kalita Wave. My pick would be the natural process, which seemed to enhance the stone fruit flavours a little more, and at times was reminiscent of a juicy grape. Not the most elegant of descriptions probably, however hopefully you get my drift. That is all I have to say on this point – remember, I do not do café reviews.

Final Thoughts

Loved it.

Probably one of the more enjoyable coffees I have roasted and brewed this year. I must admit, the cool weather of late has made it a little easier to control my roasts (given they are done outside), and with a little experimentation, I feel these have been improving over time as well. I’ll be disappointed when the last of the Santa Clara goes through the grinder, however there may be something even more enjoyable up ahead. After all, isn’t that the basis for the journey?

Rating: 4.5/5

What’s Brewing #11 – Costa Rica Terra Bella

Terra Bella LatteIt has been a little while since the last What’s Brewing post, however back we are today, having roasted another batch of Costa Rica Terra Bella (Honey) last weekend. Having picked up a kilo of this coffee from Ministry Grounds a few weeks ago, this was my second roast batch, which seemed to do a better job at bringing out the flavours than the first attempt.

On with the review:

What
Costa Rica Terra Bella Villa Sarchi
– Altitude: 1450–1500m
– Crop Year: 2013
– Varietal: Villa Sarchi
– Processing: Honey

 Terra Bella Estate is located in the West Valley region of Costa Rica, about 35km west of the capital city of San Jose. This is one of the most classic coffee regions of Costa Rica and the one with the highest coffee production in the country nowadays. The reason for this is the excellent conditions to produce coffee that are prevalent here: deep, rich volcanic soils, high altitudes, moderate and well-distributed rainfall, cool temperatures, etc.

Information courtesy Ministry Grounds via The MTC Group

A little more on the Honey processing method, courtesy of The Coffee Review:

“Honey” is a relatively new term describing coffee that has been dried with all or some of the sticky fruit pulp or “honey” (miel in Spanish) still adhering to the bean. Those familiar with coffee processing methods will, of course, recognize this practice as a kind of compromise between two more familiar processing methods: the dry or “natural” method, in which the beans are dried while entirely encased inside the fruit, and the wet or “washed” method, in which all of the soft fruit residue, both skin and pulp, are scrubbed off before the coffee is dried.

How
Latte, V60 Filter, Aeropress, Espresso

Assessment
Through milk in a latte or flat white, this coffee performed extremely well and resulted in a creamy, sweet brew with subtle apple and caramel flavours. When brewed as an espresso, I couldn’t help but think perhaps I should have let the roast run a little darker, as the acidity overpowered things a little. Not undrinkable by any stretch, however not quite as pleasant as some of the other varieties I’ve roasted and tried recently.

Which brings us to the V60 filter and Aeropress methods, which seemed well suited to both the coffee and the roast profile, producing a very well-balanced cup from either method. The V60 probably outshines the Aeropress slightly, with a cleaner, brighter cup, again containing sweet apple and a caramelly, honey like layer, with a nice long finish.

Conclusion; Know This
I really enjoyed the Costa Rica Terra Bella, with my preference being either as a milk drink, or on its own through the V60. As I mentioned above, this was my second roast batch, and definitely an improvement on the first. Looking back through my notes, the second time around was a slightly larger batch (450g vs 300g), which probably slowed the roast down a little, although I used the same heat ramp profile. In any event, if you get the chance to try this coffee, you certainly won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 3.75/5

What’s Brewing – El Salvador Miravalle CoE

El Salvador CoEPurchased in the same Ministry Grounds run-out sale of Cup of Excellence offerings as the previously reviewed Guatemalan CoE, this coffee certainly did not disappoint. You may remember the Guatemalan took a little “wearing in” before I truly discovered its magic – well this El Salvador was a more straight down the line brew.

Let’s see how it tasted.

What
El Salvador Miravalle CoE Lot 12 2013
– City: Santa Ana
– Region: Santa Ana
– Variety: Bourbon, Pacas, Kenya
– Processing: Washed
– Lot Size: 36 boxes
– Altitude: 1,650 metres above sea level
– Farmer: Doctor Jaime Ernesto Riera Menendez
– International jury score: 86.33

Finca Miravalle is located on the Ilamatec Mountain Range on the fertile foothills of El Salvador’s Santa Ana volcano at an average altitude of 1,650 metres above sea level. Due to it’s high altitude Miravalle’s coffee berries ripen slowly, which allows the sweetness and complexity to develop in the cup.

Information courtesy Ministry Grounds

How
Latte, V60 Pour over, Aeropress

Assessment
Latte – although many would consider your CoE’s to be best appreciated “uncontaminated” by milk, this coffee was certainly very enjoyable in my morning latte[1]. The flavours were able to cut through the milk well enough to provide a good platform for the citrus notes, whilst having enough body to create a well-rounded drink.

V60 – Similar to the Guatemalan, a definite stand out method of brewing. Fantastic balance between the acidity and body, with increasing sweetness as the drink progressively cooled. When consumed as a filter, the purity of the citrus and lime flavours really shine through. Immensely enjoyable, and I often found myself brewing enough for two cups rather than my usual one with the V60 (though limiting myself to one at any given time is an effort in itself – regardless of the variety)

Aeropress – There was certainly a contrast between the V60 and Aeropress forms of brewing. At times there was quite a lolly-like taste quality similar to a toffee apple, with a thicker mouthfeel and longer finish. A great mid-afternoon boost in the office.

Conclusion; Know This
Although in my opinion not quite to the heights of the Guatemalan CoE of the last review, this coffee scored ever so slightly higher in the CoE judging (86.33 vs 85.83 for the Guatemalan). Whether or not this is indicative of my amateurish palate or not, it is pretty safe to say I enjoyed both immensely. This is best demonstrated by the fact that all bar about 100 grams of the 2 kg purchased I consumed myself, with very few beans going to family, which sounds terrible I know, but these were something special (now that I write that, so are my family – more will be shared next time!).

Although now out of stock, be sure to keep an eye out for these varieties next season, they are well worth the money.

Overall Rating: 4/5


  1. I also endeavour to try as many of the different forms of brewing I use on a daily basis with all of the coffees I roast.  ↩