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Panama Boquete - Aurora

December 15, 2007
Combined

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.

The two coffees we are reviewing in this installment are the result of the coming-together of two separate paths. The first was the "discovery" by Price Peterson, of the Ethiopian Geisha cultivar on his Esmeralda Farm in Panama and its subsequent win at the 2004 Best of Panama competition. This unique, Yirg-like coffee is thought to have arrived in Panama by a complicated route, from its origin in the Gesha forests of the Kaffa region of Southwest Ethiopia. Its win created a stir in the "specialty coffee" community and caused various community members to hunt for occurrences of this cultivar in other locations, in and out of Panama.

The other intersecting path is a movement among some coffee growers and importers, to refine the processing of coffee, selecting-out only the very finest trees and then carefully processing the fruit to produce the highest possible quality. The lots resulting from these efforts are necessarily small and thus the term "micro-lot" was coined to describe the results.

The two coffees reviewed here are at the intersection of these two paths. These micro-lots (actually nano-lots would be more appropriate; there was less than 50 kg., of each coffee), were produced on the Mama Cata Farm in Boquete by a cooperative effort between Mama Cata and Joseph Brodsky (Ninety Plus Coffee), under the supervision of Graciano Cruz (Ninety Plus Development, Los Lajones Farm in Boquete). The introduction of these extraordinary coffees brings us into a new, even more rarified and heady area in the micro-lot world, with the promise of still finer coffees to come.

These outstanding coffees are available by invitation only, from the pioneering roaster/retailer, Miguel Meza (Paradise Roasters, R Miguel). For information about an invitation, go to www.rmiguelcoffee.com or send an email to miguel@rmiguelcoffee.com. Happily, more of these special coffees will grace our cups in the future.

Bob's Review:
Once in a while a coffee arrives at my cupping table that goes beyond the words normally used to describe the characteristics of coffee. This is one such. I can remember the flavors and aromas even now, days after the cupping, though I can't describe them all. Actually I cupped it twice to be sure that my senses weren't deceiving me. The first time was after about 8 hours rest, blind, side-by-side with the auction and non-auction versions of the Esmeralda Geishas. The second time, after about 36 hours of rest, I cupped it against a control sample and it was even better. It had settled down and gained a high degree of complexity.

This is what might be called a "designer coffee". Grown at 1700 meters (about 5600 ft.), Graciano Cruz nursed the coffee as it was growing, measuring the sugar content and picking it late in the season when the sugars were at an optimum point, and then drying it on specially designed drying tables.

In the grinder, and dry in the cup, the coffee is all floral aromas, citrus fruits, buttered toast and hints of chocolate. In the cup it is absolutely clean and transparent with a fuller range of fruits emerging - citrus, mango, apricot, passion fruit and more. This is a very sweet coffee but not cloying because its bracing acidity keeps the sweetness in balance. Its underpinning is a base of vanilla/chocolate and toasty tones that provide the platform for the floral/fruity profile. And finally, this coffee has a long, sweet jasmine finish that hangs around in the memory long after the cups are washed.

Scoring was difficult because this coffee goes beyond the normal descriptions. It's a bit like the difference between a good, every day Burgundy, and a Romanee-Conti. This coffee steps up to a different level than the coffees I normally evaluate. How many points is the complexity, subtlety and elegance of this coffee worth? Where are those characteristics on the scoring sheet? In the end, I scored it as I would any other coffee and added 2 cupper's points for the impression it left, the descriptions for which, can't be found in a book on cupping.

Jim's Review:
I cupped this coffee against two other Panamanian Geishas, the Nectar and the non-auction Esmeralda Especial. These are all spectacularly sweet and fruity coffees with predominant apricot and cinnamon flavors. As the scores show, they are among the very world's best coffees produced these last few years,and perhaps forever. My review text is mostly comparative with the other two Geishas.

The Aurora sets a new Coffeecuppers record, and is the best coffee I've had at a cupping table. It has all the sweetness and fruit of the Esmeralda. But it also has a complex undertone of almonds, chocolate, and clove.

Brewed, this is a muscular coffee; the aroma will fill the kitchen when you brew it, and the taste will linger on the tongue. Finally, the complexity of the coffee fuses into a single focused flavor, rather the different notes shimmering in and out. Although the Geisha is often compared to Yrgacheffe, this flavor fusion is a hallmark of great Centrals, rather than African coffees. It could be that the Geisha is adapting to its new environment.

This coffee should not be roasted medium or dark, nor used in a medium roast espresso. It won't be bad in these forms, but it won't even get close to the quality it has light roasted and brewed.

Bobs Score
Dry Fragrance: 4.8
Wet Aroma: 4.6
Flavor: 9.7
Finish: 8.9
Acidity: 8.4
Body: 7.6
Cupper's Points: +2.0
________________
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 96.0


Jim's Score

Dry fragrance: 4.9
Wet Aroma: 4.7
Flavor: 10.0
Finish: 9.7
Acidity: 8.7
Body: 7.5
_________________
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 95.5

  • Lighter Roasts: Complex, powerful, and sweet. Multi-fruit and cinnamon flavors predominate with hints of chocolate, almond and clove.
  • Darker Roasts: A waste. Complexity will be lost, Cinnamon and chocolate will predominate.
  • As Espresso: A waste. Acceptable cappucinos, too tart as straight shot.

 

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UPDATED: December 20, 2007