Once considered the laughing stock of the specialty coffee industry—or completely disregarded—Panama is now a rising star. This is particularly true of Panamanian coffees from the Boquete region, farmers are taking Arabica coffee cultivation to new levels and recent auctions of small. specialty lots have garnered record prices.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we are sipping Panama Carmen Natural, from Kuma Coffee in Seattle, Washington. Feel free to pull up a chair.
Carmen Estate is located in the Volcan Valley part of the Baru Volcano region of Panama, near Boquete. The valley is considered the most important coffee growing region in Panama due to its elevation, dense vegetation, volcanic soil and diverse micro-climates. The cool, frost-free nights coupled with dry, sunny days create ideal coffee growing conditions.
The estate is a family owned farm under the current leadership of Carlos Aguilera.
His coffee plants are harvested from December through March, hand picked by the Nobes, the indigenous people of Panama. The Carmen Estate typically specializes in fully washing their coffees, then drying them either naturally, in the sun, or mechanically. Carmen Estate practices strict agricultural and environmental standards; the farm is more than half forested by native trees, which naturally shade the coffee.
They only produce about 1,200 bags of green coffee annually and there are only about a fraction of naturally-processed coffees that they bag up. This year, Carmen Estate only produced 20 bags of natural coffee; Kuma Coffee bought ten of them—the other ten are available at Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters.
origin: Boquete, Panama
farm: Carmen Estate
elevation: 1750 meters above sea level
certifications: shade grown
Wow. WOW. I just opened this package and a massively, incredibly fruit bomb aroma came exploding out of it. Honestly, I’d be just as content to sniff this aroma all day if I wasn’t able to actually drink the coffee. While I’m brewing it, the wet aroma is every bit as heavenly—the fruitiness isn’t as massive, but it’s still there. Now, though, the aroma is more akin to strawberries and cream.
The flavor… Good golly, Miss Molly! Talk about fruit bomb!
This coffee is so crisp, so light, so bright and lively and massively flavored! It has a smooth and creamy body with a chocolate syrup sweetness—which is great; but the more dominant flavors are way more dominant. Cherry, blackberry, strawberry, banana, pineapple, raspberry, and wild, wild passion fruit. I know that sounds like “flavor overload,” but what I really appreciate about this coffee is all of the flavors play well with each other; they don’t blend together, but they don’t overshadow each other. It also helps that each sip finishes with just a little hint of roasted almonds.
As the cup cools off, everything amplifies. The creaminess is thicker and more palate-coating, the fruitiness is more intense, and a soft strawberry-lime acidity emerges. It’s tangy, it’s tart, but it’s not overbearing in the least. This is a very, very well-rounded cup of coffee.
Light body; creamy mouthfeel; strawberry/lime acidity; clean finish, lingering aftertaste.
the bottom line:
Van Halen had it right when David Lee Roth so wisely sang, “Uh! // Oh yeah! // Ah-huh! // Panama, Panama // Wow! // Panama, Panama // Oh-oh-oh-oh // Woo!” He was obviously drinking this coffee while he wrote that hit song—I was expressing very similar sentiments sip after sip.
Kuma Coffee’s Panama Carmen Natural is the most exciting cup of coffee I’ve had in recent memory. As I’ve mentioned before, I love naturally processed coffees because they have no limits, they have no restraint, there’s nothing to hold back all of their God-given flavor; they taste exactly as they were created to taste. Of course, sometimes, that’s not such a great thing, and their flaws have to be washed away.
However, in this case, circle gets the square—Kuma Coffee and the Carmen Estate proved the natural process’s limitless flavor potential.
Did you like this? Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome here at the Table! Pull up a chair and speak your mind by entering a comment below. Also remember to like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter!
Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.