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Panama Esmeralda Especial

September 9, 2007

This will be a combined review, both of us having received samples. For a description of Bob and Jim's evaluation procedure, see our reference page.

Thank God for the Esmeralda; finally the world's most famous and expensive coffee isn't some predigested Robusta, but a truly great coffee. By now everyone knows the story of the Esmeralda - how Price Peterson discovered the isolated stand of Geisha trees on his newly bought estate, and it turned out to be the mother lode of all coffees. More interestingly, this coffee has set off a great Geisha hunt which is paying some dividends in new, non-Esmeralda Geisha coffees. So far, none have threatened the preeminence of the Esmeralda; and it may be that it is not just the varietal, but that in combination with the micro-climate where it's growing, it becomes so special.

In the past few years, only a small selection of the crop has been entered into the auction, while most is sold at a lower, but still hefty, price to a small group of specialty roasters. This sample is not from the auction. Peterson says there is little difference between the two; and based on our tasting, we think this must be accurate.

Bob's Review:
A dilemma; what new superlatives can one find for a coffee so good and so well documented as is this one? This coffee is close to perfection. It has everything; soaring fragrances, the complex flavors of many types of fruit, a chocolaty under-belly, perfectly balanced acidity, a super-long finish...on and on...

Even yesterday, ten days after roasting this coffee, with no special storage methods (just sitting in a plastic sandwich bag in a drawer), the cappuccino I drank was an absolute dream! All I can say is, wow!

Here are a few more details...

Jim's Review:
I've been lucky enough to have tasted the Esmeralda each year since it came out. The first year was all apricot and chocolate, something close to a perfect Mocha Haimi. The subsequent years it reminded me of a powerful Yrgacheffe, with more citrus and cinnamon oriented flavors. This year it doesn't remind me of coffee at all; it's really a lot more like diving head first into a swimming pool filled with mixed fruits. There's perhaps a twist of citrus, especially when it cools, but mostly its mangos, peaches, and honeydew melon. Even the roast taste is all floral honey, with no hint of anything darker. There is nothing complicated or cerebral about this cup; it may be the most exuberant, purely sensual coffee I've ever had.

The espresso shots are very good too, and the cappa tastes like a fruit smoothie; but neither has the sheer elan of the brewed coffee. Give it a try, but the coffee is best served brewed. Finally, if you roast this coffee to the second crack or further, you need to have your head examined.

Bobs Score
Dry Fragrance: 4.7
Wet Aroma: 4.5
Flavor: 10.0
Finish: 9.4
Acidity: 8.1
Body: 7.6

TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 94.3

Jim's Score

Dry fragrance: 4.5
Wet Aroma: 4.75
Flavor: 10.0
Finish: 9.5
Acidity: 8.25
Body: 7.75
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 94.75

  • Lighter Roasts: Carmen Miranda's hat in a cup.
  • Darker Roasts: Don't.
  • As Espresso: Nicely fruited, but not even close to the brewed coffee.


UPDATED: September 10, 2007