Many greetings and salutations to you, my coffee loving friends. Welcome to my table here in the corner of Buzz Killer Espresso, in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Well, Leap Day 2012 has come and gone; now it’s March, and time to go back to real life. Remember that old adage about March – “in like a lion, out like a lamb”? For this entry, I want that dusty old phrase to really come to life with a coffee that is going to absolutely knock my socks off. I’ve already tried a coffee called “LYON,” which I wasn’t all that impressed with, and there aren’t any roasters around me named anything like “lion,” so today I’m going with a coffee from a roaster named after a much smaller animal, but one that still packs a lot of roar – the bee.

Ready to get stung? Feel free to pull up a chair.

Today’s coffee, roasted by the fine folks at Buzz: Killer Espresso, comes to us from Panamad – a country that, considering how much coffee is grown there, isn’t really known for its coffee production. Panama has had a rough go of it in the specialty coffee industry because a lot of critics have often dismissed it as bland, boring, flat, or inconsequential. This was especially true a little more than ten years ago. Because of this, buyers didn’t buy; and Panamanian coffee hasn’t made its way into American coffee mugs. A shame, really, because the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama (SCAP) has worked very hard to ensure that their coffee could compete with their Central and South American counterparts (particularly with neighboring country Costa Rica).

Some farms, though, in the past few years, are proving themselves to be the antithesis of the Panamanian coffee industry. One of these farms is Price Peterson‘s Hacienda La Esmeralda. These Gesha (or, Geisha) coffees have consistently attracted record-breaking prices over the past several years, setting the farm apart from its Panamanian peers as one of the most unique coffees in the world. This fact, of course, explains the $7 dent my 12 ounce cup of it from this morning put in my wallet – I even saw one roaster selling it for $42.95 for a ten ounce bag! This rare specialty coffee, which sells at $200/kilo broke all sorts of barriers when it debuted in New Zealand at a staggering $13 per cup!

Anyhow, any hint of buyer’s remorse was alleviated upon first sip…

the basics:

Origin: Mount Barú, Panama
Farm: Hacienda La Esmeralda
Elevation: 1500-1800 meters above sea level
Cultivar: Gesha
Process: washed
Certifications: Rainforest Alliance

the coffee:

Panamanian coffees, particularly the Gesha coffees that come from smaller estates, have garnered a lot of praise for their vivid and aromatic floral aromas. The Esmeralda from Buzz is certainly no exception. Very fine, delicate, and perfumed scents of lavender and lilac, mixed with sweet cherry and soft, warm cocoa, waft out of the cup, enticing you to take the first sip.

When I do, I literally utter, “Wow…” This coffee provides a rush of taste explosions upon first sip. It’s light-bodied, with a delicate and faint, but slightly syrupy (or, cocoa/molasses) mouthfeel – the coffee glides across the palate, to the back of the tongue, leaving behind the ever-so-slightest coating behind. For this coffee, though, the lighter the body, the better – because the Esmeralda has a deluge of the most wonderful fruit tones imaginable at play. Post-brew, this coffee is actually reminiscent of hot cherry cider – very sweet and juicy, even having that belly-warming spice that cherry cider has (what is that, cinnamon?).

As the cup cools, the cherry cider flavor dissipates a bit and a tart and assertive, but smooth, citric acidity appears, as a lemon-limey pineapple juice taste emerges, coupled with burnt orange peel. At this point, too, the coffee starts to taste a bit more floral and aromatic – I don’t trust my palate on this one, because it seems a little unlikely, but the floral notes seem to transform from lilac to rose hip; like a chamomile tea. However, even though the flavor shifts from stage to stage of the cooling process, the light syrupy mouthfeel stays consistent from beginning to end.

the bottom line:

Wow. What a coffee. I’ll be honest, I don’t do any research for any of the coffees that I drink until I drink them, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into with Buzz: Killer Espresso’s Esmeralda. The only thing that drove me to trying it, actually, was the price tag – I wanted to see for myself why one cup of coffee was priced at $7. So when I took that first sip, and a long, slow “wow…” leaked from my mouth (as my jaw hit the floor), I immediately became a believer. Esmeralda is very much one of the most unique and flavorful coffees I have ever experienced. Aromatic, perfumy, floral, fruity, juicy, syrupy… This coffee truly provided a memorable experience.

How could I even summarize the Esmeralda effectively? It was like falling in love with coffee all over again.

Touche, Buzz – ya stung me.

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