What’s Brewing: Panama Baru Indian High Estate Geisha – Natural

You might notice this coffee originates from the same region which has produced my most enjoyable coffee to date — bar none — about which I wrote in a previous post. The reason is obvious of course — I was looking to capture some of that magic, figuring I would either be very happy once again, or find that perhaps I had been spoiled by the quality of that previous experience. My fingers were tightly crossed for the former.

The Region and Producer

Here, I again refer you back to that previous post, which outlines a little about the Boquete region in Panama.

There is also extensive information available (link below) on the Saurez family history of growing coffee in the region (beginning in 1920), and the Baru Indian High brand. A snippet on their philosophy I reproduce here:

Image courtesy Baru Indian High
Image courtesy Baru Indian High

The growth and success experienced throughout the years is due to the enforcement of basic principles when managing the farms: maintaining the same coffee varieties that our parents started growing since the birth of the business, promoting a high degree of social commitment with our partners and employees, applying a sustainable agriculture that respects the environment and investing in technology to constantly develop the latest trends in farming.

These paired up with the special micro-climate that Boquete brings, makes that at the end we can present you a product that is consistently the same — if not better — quality than the year before. This consistency provides our clients with an interesting volume and also a very attractive cup profile of the highest quality.

Courtesy Baru Indian High – About

The Coffee

Courtesy Ministry Grounds Coffee

  • Panama Baru Indian High Estate Geisha – Natural
  • Price at time of writing $AU26.00 for 500g (green)
  • Region: Jaramillo, Boquete
  • Farm: Anselmito Estate
  • Altitude: 1550 Meters above sea level
  • Variety: Geisha
  • Processing: Natural
  • Producer: Noberto Saurez
  • Tasting notes: Light body, sweet and bright with floral notes and a presence of jasmine, cherries, stone fruits, strawberries, dry banana & plums

The Brew

IMG_4114The result? Brewed with the Hario V60, I’d describe it as a very fine coffee indeed, however probably not quite to my initial expectations. It was indeed quite light in body, however not as bright in the cup as I anticipated. As far as the overall flavours were concerned? To me, there was an abundance jasmine, an almost candied-like berry flavour, and yes, a hint of dried banana, as the tasting notes above suggest, though of course I would not have necessarily picked that up myself.

Roasting side note

IMG_4319As you can see from the bullet points above, this coffee was double the usual price I pay for my green beans (that is, the usual per kilo price for a 500g lot), clearly reflecting the higher price initially paid at auction and the quality of the product. In an attempt to do justice to any subtle flavours, my initial roast was aimed squarely at light to medium, with an eye to filter brewing. Without a large amount to play with, roasting was done in two 250g batches to allow for some “correction” in a second attempt if need be.

Yes, that second attempt was indeed required, with a slightly longer development time, yielding much the same results1. I must note here I indeed found the roasting a little challenging, perhaps due to the fact this coffee had quite a large bean, with my small-scale set up not behaving with its usual roasting profile.

The Finish

Overall, I would not deny this coffee every bit of its price tag. Sometimes it would be nice to taste the same crop roasted by a professional roaster, to assist me in determining whether the coffee was slightly below my expectations, or whether my roasting skills resulted in me arriving at this point. Were I a betting man I would suggest the latter is most likely at play here.

In any event, the Panama Baru Indian High Estate Geisha (Natural) is a wonderful coffee indeed, and if you enjoy a brew with flavours a little more complex than your standard “mmm that’s fruity”, then this is well worth a try. To get the full value for your money, perhaps don’t have an amateur roast it in his back yard.

I do however — live and learn. On to the next roast… and cup.

  1. For those interested in further detail, the two roasts were (i) total time 11:00 mins; development 18%; and (ii) total time 10:10; development 21%. ↩︎

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


What’s Brewing – Panama Carmen Estate

English: View of the Rio Caldera from the home...
English: View of the Rio Caldera from the homemade bridge near Volcan Baru national park, Boquete. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although I am hesitant to call something a good all-rounder, this is probably the most apt description for this variety from Panama’s Carmen Estate. This tag often carries with it the connotation of being solid without ever reaching any great heights. I don’t think that is probably a fair description of this crop, however is something I keep coming back to in trying to describe it for this review.

As I mentioned in my previous Coffee post, the expectation for this “honey” processed lot was for a fairly full-bodied brew with reasonably low to medium acidity. A little on the Carmen Estate from Ministry Grounds:

Carmen Estate is situated in the Paso Ancho Valley, which is located in the Chiriqui province, close to the border with Costa Rica in western Panama. Paso Ancho Valley lies on the western slopes of the Baru Volcano. The Baru is an inactive volcano located between the Boquete and Volcan-Candela areas. At 3,500 meters above sea level, the Baru is the highest point in Panama. The Baru Volcano has provided very rich, deep and fertile soils to the Paso Ancho Valley micro region. This coupled with regular rainfall and appropriate altitude are a key factor in the outstanding quality portrayed by the coffee produced in this micro region.

Expectations aside, how did it actually taste?

The Whack

What
– Panama Carmen Estate
– Altitude: 1250–1500mtrs
– Crop Year: 2013
– Varietal: Catuai Caturra Typica
– Processing: Washed

How
Latte; Hario V60 Pourover; Aeropress

Assessment
Milk course – When brewed with milk, there is enough body to carry the drink, and a nice creamy finish, however the low acidity and overly subtle fruit flavours result in a fairly middle of the road experience overall.

V60 – Hints of stone fruit sweetness in this form of brewing; really came to life after most of the heat had come out of the brew. A fairly long, subtle finish. I suspect this would make a great cold brew.

Aeropress – Performed pretty well in this method. Noticeably low acidity, with undertones of the fruitiness seen in the V60 above. Both the V60 and Aeropress would be my preferred methods of consumption with this particular varietal.

Conclusion; Know this
Overall, a solid performer across most forms of brewing. A couple of points to note however. Firstly, the sweetness of the brew increased significantly as it cooled, and perhaps would be well suited to a cold brew. In addition, it would probably work quite well in a blend, providing some body in the middle and creaminess to the finish. I’m of the opinion it just needs a little more fruitiness to drive the overall flavour profile.

Rating 3.5/5

Wait…there’s more
Thankfully, brewing the Carmen Estate overlapped with another batch of roasting which included this Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, a variety I have always found brings a lot of fruit to the cup.

Hence, a blend was created with 40% Carmen Estate, 40% Yirgacheffe, and 20% Indonesian Blue Batak. The Yirgacheffe added a great burst of fruitiness, with blueberry and lemon/lime flavours, whereas the Blue Batak provided a hint of spice, which together, improved the milk based drink significantly and really packed more sweetness into the V60 and Aeropress.

So to conclude, the Carmen Estate is certainly an enjoyable drink as a single origin, however is at its best when part of a blend with varietals that will provide a little more acidity and add to the overall flavour profile.

What’s Roasting #6 – Panama Carmen Estate

IMG_1334Recently I’ve been clearing out some remaining green beans left over from blending experiments, and along with roasting the usual decaf batch for my wife’s consumption, finished the last of my store from Panama’s Carmen Estate.

Details on the particular processing method described by Ministry Grounds:

This is a Honey processed lot, which means that fully ripe cherry is picked, sorted & pulped the same as a fully washed coffee, however after pulping the mucilage is left untouched on the bean and is sent to dry with the mucilage on. “Honey” coffees are sun-dried and normally on raised beds to allow greater airflow during drying as the mucilage left on the bean provides the opportunity for spoiling. The result is a more full-bodied, sweeter coffee, with less acidity.

Most coffees I have tasted from Panama generally do not disappoint, so I am expecting the same from this batch. From what I understand this has a lot to do with the very unique microclimate and rich volcanic soils enjoyed by the coffee producing estates in this country.

Here’s hoping for enough body to punch through the milk in my morning latte, and I’m also looking forward to a few sweet V60 and Aeropress long brews. A nice light roast should do it.

Tasting review to follow soon.

Ironman Geisha – Your Choice

A little humour from The Guardian Australia Foodblog:

There’s this coffee called Caterer’s Blend. You find it in the tearooms of tight-arsed institutions that have a high volume of randoms floating through in search of a caffeine transportation vehicle. A little “black magic” so they can endure the next five minutes without killing themselves or the people they are paid to deal with.

In my office, the Caterers a Blend equivalent is Nescafe Blend 43, which I have mentioned in less than glowing terms in a previous post.

Ironman Geisha, well that is another story, and is something else that I will not be consuming in any great quantity (or at all). I must admit I am a little envious of those who will give it a try though. The reason being that this coffee was recently purchased at the Best of Panama auction by Australia’s Campos Coffee for AU$666.00 per kilo, and will be sold in 150 gram jars for AU$100.00. Nice jars too if you check out their online store.

Then, much to my disappointment, a little humour from The Guardian went to a moan and groan:

Which makes the story of the Ironman Geisha such a monumental wank.

And to be honest I don’t care what this coffee tastes like, at $666 a kilo it’s still a ripoff. Who asked for this?

It is fairly clear the writer has completely missed the point about these types of limited consumer opportunities. Simple supply and demand, the chance to “try it out”, and the choice of any consumer in what they spend their money on, to name but a few of the reasons people will buy this coffee and be glad they did.

A better article if it simply described the Geisha, the writer asking whether they would pay $100 for 150 grams, answering a simple no, (as many who browse the Campos site will also say) and getting on with it. “Who asked for this?” – well, no-one. Who is forced to buy it – well strangely enough, no-one. It is not fluoride in a water supply and I’m pretty sure no-one is being held hostage until they suck $100 from their PayPal account.

We could rattle off a long list of food and beverages people choose to pay far too much for, many of which are consumed in a fairly short period of time. Oh – wait…they choose to pay for. Nothing further I need to say, apart from well done Campos, you can be well satisfied when every last jar is shipped.

As far as the Guardian article is concerned? Relevant point completely missed.

The final word on this must go to Dan (who at least tried the coffee, unlike The Guardian) in an article and short cupping video in The Brisbane Times. Oh…who incidentally is a non coffee drinker who picked the Ironman out of a line up in a blind cupping session – just saying.