PANAMA...Home of "The Unicorn"
Late Sunday night after the "sugar cane"/Sunday Funday festivities wound up in Costa Rica, we made the four-hour journey down the fog-encased mountain from Tarrazu to San Jose in anticipation of catching the prop plane that would take us on the hour flight into the small regional airport in David, Panama...an hour's drive from arguably the home of the most famous boutique Specialty Coffee farms in the world.
We flew into Panama late in the morning and immediately headed to the Lerida Estate to participate in a cupping that they had set up for us. It was a nice table; but, much like last year, we did not find any coffees that will be making their way back to Sacramento.
After the cupping in Lerida, we caught a ride into the beautiful little town of Boquete which is the gateway town up into the mountains. In Boquete, we met up with Wilford Lamastus, aka "The Unicorn" and owner of the Elida Estate, who would be our host for the next two days. After dinner, we piled into his pickup truck and drove into the mountains to his house.
The next morning started at dawn with a quick ride over to the farm where Wilford checked in with his farm manager on how the previous evening's processing went. Because Wilford's farm is at such high elevation, the harvest is one of the last ones in Panama and was in full swing. After getting a tour of the farm and a brief breakdown of how the harvest was going, we headed to the cupping table. For the next two hours we cupped through 30 different day lots of both washed and natural process coffee to choose which ones would be coming back to Sacto...To put it lightly, Holy Crap...the man has done it again!
From Elida we headed over to the Kotowa Estate, which is a 15-minute drive. The Kotowa Estate is owned and operated by Ricardo Koyner and is home to the oldest wet mill in Panama. While the mill is no longer in operation, it has been kept in pristine shape and now acts as a museum of sorts. As with Wilford, to get Kotowa coffee you have to know Ricardo...it doesn't just show up on any importer's spot offering list. This year, there was an even more exclusive buzz around the coffee, as last year Kotowa was named overall Farm of the Year at the Best of Panama contest. After an hour tour of the farm and wet/dry mill led by Ricardo himself, we sat down for a brief lunch and learned more about his family's amazing coffee history. From lunch we headed into the cupping lab. Ricardo had set up two tables of 10 coffee microlots each. While all of the coffees on the table were off the charts, they also were already spoken for. Now that we have met Ricardo, look for us to beback at the farm next year and for Kotowa to have a permanent place in our offerings.
After saying our goodbyes at Kotowa, we drove over to the most famous coffee farm in the world: Finca La Esmerelda. At Esmerelda, we were greeted by Daniel Petersen, the son of founder Brice Peterson. Daniel is now in charge of running the day-to-day operations of the estate that is famous for its Geisha Varietal. Daniel gave us a brief overview of the farm and described how they laid out their coffee plants more like a vineyard than a farm. To say the least, it was fascinating insight and a big learning experience for us. At the end of the tour, we headed up to the cupping lab and proceeded to taste through 12 coffees. All 12 of the coffees were stellar, but we did not find anything that we will be bringing into Sacto.
Coffees from Panama that will be arriving in Sactown in late May/early June:
- Lot #12...6 bags Natural Process from Elida Estate...all of the tropical fruit and chocolate notes we've come to expect over the years
- Lot #4...2 bags Washed Process from Elida Estate...refined and clean lot with beautiful acidity...definitely a 90+ point coffee
- EXCITING UPDATE: In early May, Wilford won First Place and "Producer of the Year" award for 2015 at this year's Best of Panama competition.
Coffee Link for some of our incoming coffees: