Hacienda La Esmeralda
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Today’s coffee comes to us from Panama—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.

Ten years ago, after decades of growing and processing excellent coffee, the family behind this beautiful farm set about on a new project. The project came as a result of something very special that was happening in their cupping sessions. Every once in a while, one cup out of 100 had this very different flavor of bright, sweet orange, jasmine, and milk chocolate.

So they set about a new project to find where this coffee was coming from. They cupped the coffee from every tree on the farm over the span of a year and, low and behold, in a special grove, they found a gnarly looking bunch of trees which would make them the most famous farm in Specialty Coffee. The trees were discovered to be of an ancient heirloom varietal which had somehow made their way into the farm.

They labeled it “Geisha.”

The Petersons then propagated the plant and began processing batches of this coffee. Immediately they won every award available.

It received first place in the Best of Panama competitions in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010. Esmeralda Special received first place at the Specialty Coffee of America Roaster’s Guild competition in 2005, 2006, and 2007. Esmeralda Special received the highest score in Rainforest Alliance Cupping for Quality competition in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, and 2009.

The coffee became a sensation and there was an immediate demand for the sparkling coffee of astonishing quality. The demand was so high, the family had to organize a private online auction through which to sell the best lots, or what is now known as “Special Geisha”. The prices they received for their coffees in the first auction shattered all records for traditional coffees. Now, there is even more demand, and the coffee is just as amazing, or even better than it was.

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Hacienda La Esmeralda, from Tim Wendelboe in Oslo, Norway. Feel free to pull up a chair.

the basics:

region: Boquete, Chiriqui, Panama
farm: Hacienda La Esmeralda
producer: Price Peterson
elevation: 1500 – 1900 meters above sea level
cultivars: Geisha
process: washed, patio dried
certifications: Rainforest Alliance

the coffee:

The aroma wafting off the Hacienda La Esmeralda is light and delicate. It has beautiful, but gentle and perfumey fruit and floral aromatics that lightly brush the tip of the nose, with notes of rose hips and citrus.

The flavor of this coffee is every bit as light and airy and delicate as the aroma. It has incredible tea-like flavors, aromatics, and mouthfeel; notes of rose petals and cherry, with faint traces of chamomile, come floating in on a lazy river of Tupelo honey.

As it cools off, soft, juicy orange really comes to the forefront of each sip, being propelled forward by lively fruit notes like plum, apricot, and lemon.

Light body; honey mouthfeel; citrus acidity; clean finish.

the bottom line:

The Hacienda La Esmeralda, from Tim Wendelboe, provides a unique flavor experience that I haven’t experienced elsewhere with this particular coffee. In my previous experiences with the Geisha, this coffee was explosive and bright and intensely tropical, with a sharp, biting citric acidity; not so with this one. This cup was delicate and soft and aromatic, the acidity was mellow, and the overall profile was rounded and refined.

No sharp edges.

And this is the same sort of experience I had with the Tim Wendelboe Kenya a few weeks ago. I don’t know the first thing about roasting, so I avoid making any sort of statements about it, but Tim seems is roasting at a completely different level than Americans seem to be roasting.

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