Twenty competitors—professional baristas and amateur home brewers alike—gathered in Passion House’s roasting warehouse in Fulton Market, sized each other up, took to their Hario V60s, and competed for a $200 cash prize and a brand new Bonavita kettle. There was only one grand prize winner, of course, but each of the twenty competitors at least got a few consolation prizes: a journal from Counter Culture Coffee, a sweet mug from Intelligentsia Coffee, and a package of coffee from ipsento.
My fiancé, Ashley Timmer, illustrator and home brewer extraordinaire, competed—did rather well too, I might add—so, even though she didn’t take the grand prize home, we’ve at last been able to brew some ipsento coffee in her brand new mug and take copious tasting notes in her brand new journal.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we are brewing up a cup of Panama Honey, from Chicago’s own ipsento. Feel free to pull up a chair.
More than half of the Elida Estate—which has been owned by the Lamastus family since 1918—rests within the confines of the Volcan Baru National Park, a protected ecological reserve and sanctuary for exotic plants, birds, and mammals (like the tropical tiger). It also home to Mount Baru, one of the most elevated volcanoes in all of Central America.
The farm takes up about 65 hectares of the property, 30 of which are populated by Catuai, Bourbon, and a small amount of Geisha coffee trees, which are planted up to 1825 meters above sea level—the highest elevation coffee can grow in Panama; in fact, Elida is the second-highest elevated farm in Panama. The coffee is grown in rich young volcanic soils, the temperatures are low, there is a lot of fog and mist during the dry season, the coffee trees are surrounded by virgin-native cloudy rain forest, the nights get cold here thereby taking a tree from four and a half to five and a half years to start producing (two or three years longer to produce than average), these low temperatures also extend the ripening time one month longer (thus affecting the development of the bean).
All these unique growing conditions ought to show in a distinguishable cup.
Last week, here at the Table, we got to try out Kuma Coffee’s super-flavorful Panama Carmen Natural. This week, things at the Table are going to cool off a bit with the Panama Honey from ipsento; in lieu of the wild and untamed natural process, this coffee is just one small step more “civilized” with a semi-washed process.
origin: Alto Quiel, Boquete, Panama
farm: Elida Estate
elevation: 1670-1825 meters above sea level
cultivars: Catuai, Bourbon
process: semi-washed, patio dried
certifications: shade grown
The aroma of the Panama Honey is light and sweet, with floral notes fluttering out of the cup. There’s also a nice touch of fruitiness with hints of berry, cherry, and citrus. And nuttiness…? Let me tell you! A sweet and exotic assortment of macadamias, hazelnuts, and pistachios. My, oh my.
Immediately post-brew, there’s a wonderfully big chocolate flavor with notes of strawberry and blueberry mixed in. As the cup cools off, the fruitiness gets more and more intense; the strawberry gets sweeter, cantaloupe juiciness starts to appear, and a belly of plums, pineapple, citrus, and apples emerges. This is about the stage of the cup that a bright and tangerine acidity. The chocolate syrup and honey flavors stick around, though, going long and deep into the cup, with each sip finishing with a smack of nuttiness.
Medium body; honey mouthfeel; piquant acidity; clean, smooth finish.
the bottom line:
The Panama Honey, from ipsento, is a truly extraordinary and satisfying cup of coffee. With big, deep flavors of chocolate and honey and light, bright notes of berry, melon, and nuts, this cup is rounded and balanced from beginning to end. It is juicy and delicate, but heavily layered and fully flavored.
At no point is it over- or underwhelming; the sort of coffee that, no matter the time of day, you’ll always be in the mood for.
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