In the end of April I went down to visit the good people at Hacienda La Esmeralda in Boquete, Panama. This was my first time in Panama and having enjoyed drinking the Esmeralda coffee alot for the last couple of years I was very interested to finally go visit and see what it is that makes this coffee taste so different than any other coffee.
After some amazing days in Portland, Oregon, withnessing the US Barista championship I was ready to trawel further down south to Panama and for some fresh mountain air.
The first thing I noticed when I got to the area of Boquete was how lush the area is. I arrived pretty much right in the end of dry season and expected the land to be way drier. This is definitely one of the freshest greenest coffee growing areas I have been to.
Boquete is located in an enclave of mountains with rain coming in from the Caribbean Sea from the north and rain from the North Pacific Ocean from south. This creates a crazy microclima around town, which has rain coming from the two different oceans on each side of the town. Therefore the coffee varies quite a lot even though it’s from such a small area.
The high elevation along with the huge amounts of clouds almost year around coming in from the seas in Boquete, makes the use of shadow trees almost redundant. There still is a lot around but it is not crucial for the cherries to ripe slowly.
Rachel Peterson was kind enough to take some time away from her very busy time schedule. I pretty much came just before the yearly auction and everything was very hectic and busy.
For a couple of days Rachel showed me around their different coffee farms surrounding Boquete. The different lots that are called Esmeralda Special from Hacienda La Esmeralda are from different coffee farms. In some cases smaller lots get blended if they are found to suit each other. So in most cases the lot name is the name of the farm that specific coffee came from such as Montana and Mario San José but it is not always the case.
I have always wondered why coffees from this region and especially La Esmeralda have such distinct aromas. I have cupped a lot of Geisha coffees from other regions and other countries as well but nobody seems to be able to create the same distinct flavour.
One of the main reasons, as Peter also mentioned in his blog post from when he visited, I think is that they cup a lot. And they are very good at cupping. The Petersons are very aware about what they look fore in the cup. This along with their extreme quality in their drying of the coffee I am sure is what results in this great flavour.
They use demucilators to remove the pulp. Then wash and dry using both patio and mechanical driers. They do all of this in house so they have total control of the quality all the way from when they plant the coffee to the green beans are ready to ship.
Another thing that stroke me was the water from Boquete. The first cupping I did there I noticed that the coffee tasted like nothing I have ever tasted before. The body, aromas and sweetness in the cups were crazy.
Therefore I got a sample straight out of the mountain to bring home for analyzing. It is the cleanest water I have ever measured. With a content of only 7 ppm!
Is this what causes such great tasting coffee? That they get so much flavour from their brews, which result in them having it, easier to tell if they did something good?