Monday, December 8, 2008


In order to understand and appreciate my unabashed glee at my success yesterday in winning a silent auction of a pound of Hacienda La Esmeralda gourmet geisha coffee, you really need a small lesson in Panama coffee. So, with acknowledgment to the various websites I perused, thus begineth your lesson:

In the land of the Panama Canal, bird-filled rain forests and world class fishing, lie coffee farms producing world class coffee. In Panama's highland region, the western province of Chiriqui, is the placid and wonderful town of Boquete. It is known as the "Valley of the Flowers and Eternal Spring." On the side 0f the Baru Volcano (over 11400 feet) near the border with Costa Rica, are some of the best, if not the best, Estate coffees in the world. The area has the perfect environment for growing world class coffee beans. The unique area receives winds from the north, known as the "bajareque," along with a light drizzle accompanied by a cool breeze. The best and highest ranking coffees in the world come from this region of Panama. The Boquete and Volcano Baru region's high altitude grown Estate coffees consistently outperform the rest of the world.

The highlands of Panama have the perfect combination of soil and environment in many microclimates to grow unique specialty coffee and as a result, Panama produces outstanding and very unique beans rated the world's best.

Why Drink Specialty Coffee? And Why Panama's?

The simple answer is: Because it tastes better. "Grown only in ideal climates and prepared according to exacting standards, specialty coffee possesses a richer and more balanced flavor than mass-produced coffee. Plus, it must pass a stringent certification process to ensure that it is free of flaws and imperfections." according to the Specialty Coffee Association. Specialty coffees compete in "blind" tasting competitions which grade each coffee to a standard. Although many of the finest specialty coffees from the top 15 coffee producing countries enter these contests which are judged by panels of international judges, Panama's specialty coffee statistically out cups them all.

Panama coffees are shade grown at the highest altitudes in the Chiriqui Provence of Panama. The farms have close working relationships with their Ngobe - Bugle native workers and strive to enhance the communities as well as the social, medical, nutritional and educational services available to their workers. There is great pride in the traditions that have led to the quality and taste generated by these traditions.

Traditions such as hand picking, washed, and sun dried are still practiced. The Ngobe - Bugle natives of Panama have been growing and harvesting coffee for generations. These Ngobe- Bugle know the correct selection of the mature cherry and have the manual quality control that helps makes Panama coffee so uniquely special.

Panama's Hacienda La Esmeralda gourmet “geisha” coffee, which has broken world price records in online coffee auctions, is now so sought after that the farm is planning its own Internet auction this year.

In a bold step never before attempted by a single estate, the farm in the cool highlands above Panama's western town of Boquete will put its entire crop up for bidding in a private auction, farm administrator Daniel Peterson said.

“We are going to auction all of the geisha together. This is the fairest form of exchange,” Peterson told Reuters in the warehouse storing this year's harvest, just 200 60-kg bags.

The farm's coffee is popular with high-end roasters and connoisseurs drawn to its sweet jasmine flavors that win the rare beans high scores at cupping events.

The coffee had cultivated a reputation similar to fine wines grown in specific regions, and is now one of the world's most expensive varieties.

Last year Hacienda's small lot sold at an unprecedented $130 per pound at the “Best of Panama” online auction, where bids were taken by telephone after passing the computer system's maximum price of $99.99 per pound.

Hacienda's Geisha was judged World's #1 Coffee at the Specialty Coffee Assn. annual cuppings in 2005, 2006, 2007 & #2 in 2008. Over 100 of the world's best coffees enter this competition. Panama Geisha (gesha varietal) coffee has been taking the coffee world by storm. It has also ranked #1 at the Panama Best of Panama competition for the last four years. It is like no other coffee. Very complex. It smells like jasmine, coffee blossoms with spectacular aromatic quality with hints of blackberry, mango, chocolate, nuts, lemon and more.

This coffee scores in the 94-96 range - about as good as you can get.

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If you have read this far, you should have an appreciation of the rarity and incredible quality of Panama's coffees, especially the Hacienda La Esmeralda Geisha. By the way, the Peterson's run a school for the workers' children, and a health clinic and daycare, as well.

At a charity auction/tag sale/social "do" yesterday here in Boquete, there was a silent auction at which two bags of Geisha coffee were up for bid. And I scored big time by winning one at about half its market value! In addition to that I was able, by participating, to assist four different charities here in the area.

"My" coffee will be ready in April, after harvesting, aging and roasting. If you come visit me, and are very, very nice to me, I just might brew you a (single) cup of the best - and most expensive coffee in the world.

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