Last night’s Meet the Producers event at Stumptown was far and away the largest gathering of it’s kind I’d ever been to. It was awesome! Tons of coffee folks mingled with curious coffee enthusiasts, and everyone was buzzing with questions about the famed Esmeralda Special as well as the other spectacular coffees coming out of Panama, namely from Duncan Estate and Carmen Estate.
After about half an hour of folks tasting the coffees, brewed as espresso and Melitta, and snacking on yummy tomales, everyone quieted down to hear from our esteemed guests who were visiting Portland and then going on to Seattle (today at the Stumptown Roastery in Seattle, 6 p.m., everyone is welcome) to impart coffee expertise and tradition. See how many people were there?
First up was Ricardo Koyner from Duncan Estate, who was joined by his wife and two kids. Stumptown’s green coffee buyer, Aleco, gave them a nice introduction, beginning by telling the crowd that having these Meet the Producer events influences the way coffee is grown and made in the future, which is to say that the producers really like to hear what consumers are talking about and use their feedback to make better and better coffee. That’s pretty awesome.
Above, Aleco introduces Ricardo and his family. Ricardo has been called one of the best organic coffee farmers in the world, and after hearing his presentation on his farming methods, it’s no wonder. When answering the question on why to go organic, he said “We are trying to be sound. We tried to apply a lot of science into the system.” Ricardo considers every element of conservation and eco practices he can think of when cultivating and developing his coffee: “When you use a lot of water, you contaminate a lot of water,” he said, and duh, it sounds so simple, but it’s not something everyone pays attention to.
These are his kids — some of the most well behaved kids I’ve ever seen for sure. Besides making every effort to grow his coffee, which is Cafe Kotowa’s organic, in an earth-friendly way that also produces some of the best coffee in Panama, Ricardo’s operation goes to great lengths to provide for the people who work the fields. “Social responsibility is of great concern to us,” he said. Duncan Estate provides day care, meals and medical attention for its pickers.
Ricardo finished his presentation by showing a beautiful photo (slide) of the old mill on his property that his grandfather built. He said it is no longer being used, but he likes to remember the history of his farm, where the coffee and the people began. And it’s obviously a system that works: coffee from Duncan Estate won the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama’s cupping #4 and #1 in 2007; the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s #4 overall and #1 organic in 2006; Best of Panama organic in 2005; and earned a score of 90.88 from Coffee Review in 2005. It’s known for its chocolate and almond undertones, subtle body, citrus and sweet finish.
Also on hand from Panama were Daniel and Rachel Peterson of Hacienda Esmeralda:
Daniel took the mike first to explain the growing process at his family’s farm in the mountains of Western Panama, where coffees are grown at 1600 meters and higher. He showed photos detailing exactly what the Geisha looks like as it’s growing, how there is more space between the blooms (nodes) on the branch than catuai, and the geisha grows taller and has the appearance of a Typica. Also, the fruit on the geisha is larger than on catuai. As for taste profile, we’ve all heard the descriptors commonly used to describe the geisha, but Daniel added one more, which I really liked: he said Rachel had said that the coffee to her tasted like freshly squeezed sugar cane.
Rachel, who handles sales and marketing for the family coffee farm, went on to discuss Esmeralda’s now famous history for capturing top coffee awards (1st place in Best of Panama, 2007, 2006, 2005, and 2004; 1st place at the SCAA Cuppung Pavilion, 2007, 2006, and 2005; and 1st place in the Rainforest Alliance upping for Quality, 2007, 2006, and 2004) and how the family decided to do something entirely new with the way they would sell the Esmeralda Special this year (2008): by holding their own online auction. “There was more demand (for the coffee) than we actually had,” Rachel told the crowd at Stumptown. “This process allowed our most picky buyers (she shoots Aleco a smile and the crowd titters) to choose their own lots.”
Stumptown bought Batch #1 for $95.25/lb., and shared Batch #2 ($105.25/lb.) & Batch #3 ($50.24/lb) with Sweet Maria’s. The total of eight batches had almost 40 buyers at the end of the auction. Rachel explained how, prior to the auction, Daniel put together 650 sample packages and Fed Exed them around the world.
One of the most interesting discussion points of the night for me was about the packaging of the Esmeralda Special for shipping: rather than mail the coffee in burlap, beans were packaged in mylar and sent in cardboard boxes. I asked Daniel if he thought this was something we would see more in the future for the shipping of high end coffees and he said yes.
After Daniel and Rachel were done with their presentations, there was more mingling and coffee tasting. With so many enthusiastic Panamanian coffee lovers there, the event ran longer than anticipated, but eventually all had left by 9:30ish to head to Holocene for some live music It was a hell of a night!