This is a guest post by Duncan. If you are interested in writing guest articles for the Table, feel free to contact me.
Every now and then, the perks of being a cele-brew-ty really come to a head for my dad, and I get to reap the benefits. Not only is he the receiver of coffees for reviews in the mail from some of the country’s most prestigious roasters, he gets to meet a lot of cool folks, attend cool events, get immediate recognition when he walks into shops all over Chicago, and have meaningful meetings with baristas and business owners.
Sometimes some of these really cool baristas and business owners come to my house and pet me, scratch my head, and give me cookies – that’s even better.
Every now and then, sometimes a shop will call him up to tell him “We picked up some really great coffees recently – you should pop in to try some of it.”
That recently happened, when the folks at The Wormhole tagged him in a Facebook photo (their way of saying “Dr. Moody, get yer booty down here to try some of this with us.”). One of the coffees in that photo really stood out in my eyes, though; when I saw the name of it, I got into the shop and ordered a cup as quickly as I possibly could.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of The Wormhole in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Today we’re sipping a cup of Panama Duncan Estate, from Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Portland, Oregon. Feel free to pull up a chair.
Actually, this coffee is grown on the farm, Kotowa, which is perched on the southern facing slopes of Volcán Barú in Boquete de Chiriqui in northern Panama. Kotowa means ‘mountains’ in the native indigenous language.
The farm produces ‘Cafe Duncan’, which is named after
me Ricardo Koyner’s grandfather, Alexander Duncan MacIntyre, who migrated to Panama from Canada in 1913. Alexander read a newspaper article about an unexplored mountainous area on a mysterious volcano in the region of Boquete in the distant country and his curiosity led him to visit the region where he fell in love with the area, the people, and the magic of the valley.
Ricardo Koyner protects the virgin forests around the Kotowa farm as a natural habitat for many birds, both local and migratory. To ensure that the birds continue to thrive, Ricardo planted more than 500 indigenous trees that produce fruits and nuts which the birds consume. Due to its geographic location and small size, Panama has more bird species than all of North America and Europe together.
Koyner provides free medical attention for the people that work for him. He has a nursery with meals and a school program for the kids. Their social programs for the kids and the people that help produce the coffee earned the recognition from UNICEF.
At the Kotowa Mill, all the production and processing is done in consideration of the environment. The ecological mill uses only one liter of water per pound of green coffee, much lower than the 10-20 liters used by many other mills in the world. All of the byproducts from the milling activity (i.e. pulp, waste water, etc.) are used to produce the organic fertilizer which is used in the Duncan organic farm.
Ricardo processes his coffee using Penagos systems to remove mucilage. He then puts the coffee into fermentation tanks for another ten hours to fully remove any remaining solids from the beans.
He dries coffee on raised beds back at the Duncan farm before resting the coffee for 90 days in a wooden silo that has a controlled atmosphere. The controlled atmosphere is very important for the development of the bean’s flavor. The latter two steps are what bring such a special characteristic to the Duncan Estate coffee profile.
For four generations, Alexander’s family has cultivated and processed coffee in the same traditional way.
origin: Boquete de Chiriqui, Panama
farm: Duncan Estate
elevation: 1675 – 1775 meters above sea level
cultivars: Caturra, Typica
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
certifications: Organic, Direct Trade
The Panama Duncan Estate greets the nose with a sweet, heady aroma that features heavy notes of fig and almond, and some lighter, more fragrant scents of cane sugar and honeysuckle.
These scents introduce a cup that brims with flavor up front. Dried fruits and savories define the flavor profile; nougat and creamy caramel greet the palate first, and these flavors usher in raisins, currants, and cranberries. At the finish of each sip I’m picking up notes of pralines and shaved white almond.
As the cup starts to cool off it’s becoming wildly tropical and fruity and some of these flavors are a little unusual. Here, at this point in the cup, this middle area between post brew and room temperature, there are some really thick, mouth-filling banana, cantaloupe, and coconut. The closer and closer to room temperature that this coffee gets, though, the crisper, fruitier, and silkier it gets. It’s not as palate-coating as it is palate-cleaning with sweet honey crisp apple, tart Asian pear, and a restrained, balanced lemon acidity.
Light body; silky mouthfeel; lemon acidity; dry finish.
the bottom line:
Put a rubber stamper in my paw, because Panama Duncan Estate, from Stumptown Coffee Roasters, gets my seal of approval. More importantly (arguably), it also earns that of the Table’s.
This light-bodied cup provides a unique profile that pleases the palate with flavor as much as it challenges it with complexity and dynamics. It’s silky and sweet and is completely crystalline as it pushes forward heady aromas followed by effervescent, lively tropicalia in the flavor.
Furthermore, Duncan Estate is a coffee that really sits with you. The sort that keeps providing satisfaction well after finishing the cup; I actually commented on that while talking with a friend a couple hours after drinking the coffee – for such a lighter-bodied coffee, it sure has a lot of staying power.
It has a lot of unusual flavors (like banana, coconut, and lemon) that might not sit well with the casual consumer, and its longstanding aftertaste makes that doubly so.
Really, though, this is a terrific coffee for coffee aficionados.
Constable Duncan is a yellow labrabeagle with extensive experience in being a dog, chewing bones, fetching toys, and coffee—his dad is the founder of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe, after all. His hobbies consist of laying around, being a dog, cuddling, snuggling, and long walks on the beach.
Some of his favorite roasters include Passion House Coffee Roasters, Dark Matter Coffee Company, Halfwit Coffee Roasters, and Dunkin’ Donuts (but only ironically).
He is particularly flattered that Ricardo Koyner named a coffee after him.
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