Panama is gaining much momentum in popularity within the coffee world. Over the past few years, coffees from Panama have continued to impress in the cup and win various awards. Predominately, the hype is about the Geisha bean, which is a varietal of the Coffee Arabica plant.
Geisha is distinct in the cup and has been described anywhere from hot lemonade to a floral tea. At the Esmeralda Special On-line Auction this past May, single lots of Geisha went for anywhere from $6/lb. up to $105/lb. For perspective, the current fair trade price for coffee is $1.30/lb. (5-80 times more!). Geisha is the most exotic coffee I’ve ever put my tongue to, but it’s an ‘occasional’ coffee in my opinion.
At Finca Lerida, in Boquete, Panama, Jenni and I were fortunate enough to cup some Geisha coffee (among others) along with Andres Lopez, the Production Manager of the farm. We also cupped their estate ‘Honey’ coffee, which is also a very interesting coffee due, mostly, to the unique processing method. The Honey coffee is outstanding and ranks among my all-time favorites.
Prior to the cupping session, we toured the coffee farm through fields up the side of the volcano. Although Lerida is not an organic farm, they are making encouraging strides of sustainability and fairness. For example, they pay the migrant Ngobe Indian workers well above the area’s going rate for coffee picking to ensure only the ripe fruits are being picked (it is truly a win-win situation for both parties).
Some of their conservation efforts include using California Red Worms to compost the coffee mucilage that would normally be discarded and flushed into a local river. This creates a natural fertilizer that saves them money and is much cleaner on the environment. All of this leads to better situation for the owners, the workers, the environment and to us who get to enjoy the final product of compassion and effort.
Speaking of the final product, I was able to bring back some samples, and I will be offering limited amounts of the some of these unique Panama coffees in the coming months. Finca Lerida’s coffee has been fully committed to distributors already, but through another connection, I ordered limited amounts from the neighboring farm, Finca Elida. Look for these coming soon!