As I noted before, we had a great offer to try some new and expensive coffees when we last visited the Elysian Room.

I am first going to talk about the one we tried in the cafe – it’s from the Best of Panama crop from the Hacienda La Esmeralda farm. It was roasted by Hines. The coffee set a record at action, fetching $21 per pound with a score of 95.6 out of 100 at the Best of Panama competition – also placing first in the Rainforest Alliance “Cupping for Quality” in 2004. So, it was great to try this coffee that retails for $9 per cup and $50-$80 per pound!

Here is some information about the estate from their website:

Seven years ago we bought an additional coffee farm in Boquete, in the area known as Jaramillo. We had known for some time that the farm had good altitude (1450 to 1700 meters) and a nice slightly orange cup. It was an old farm with an interesting collection of coffee varieties planted by various owners over the years. We increased the plantings to about 60 hectares (part had been converted to a dairy) and basically ‘overhauled’ the farm. Much of the newer plantings did not come into production until the 03/04 harvest.

During this past year it occurred to my son, Daniel, that perhaps the cup of this farm was not due to an overall goodness, but rather perhaps there was one area that was producing an exceptional cup and, when mixed together with the rest of the production, a generally ‘good’ cup resulted. He tested this notion by cupping coffees from all over the farm. Sure enough, there was one small valley at the high end of the farm which produced the extraordinary cup now known as ‘Esmeralda Special’ – and which was the coffee that sold at the extraordinary price. The coffee on the remainder of the farm remains quite good, but not the really knock-your-socks-off cup of the Esmeralda Special.

We are not really sure yet whether this cup is the result of the micro-climate in the small valley, the rather unusual variety of coffee planted there, or a combination of both. We will be looking into this in the coming harvest. It is also a very low yielding area – again due to both the cool climate and very long internode variety. Thus it only produced about 50 bags this year and, hopefully, 75 to 100 in the coming harvest.

We do know that this coffee is NOT the result of intense selection – a common requirement for great coffees. We actually export a higher percentage of cherry picked in this coffee than in the rest of the farm. Likewise, it is not just coffee from the peak of the harvest – the quality seems to hold up from beginning to end. It is also not a ‘curiosity’ coffee – i.e. one that has passed through the digestive tract of an odd animal or originated in a isolated island in the middle of the sea. We suspect and hope that it will be a coffee that can be multiplied in Boquete to a point where reasonable volumes can be obtained.

So, what do I think of the coffee?

Well, at first I thought I didn’t like it. But then I realized that my chapstick had melted on the cup and I was tasting the wax. So, after wiping it off, I tried it again and really quite liked it.

It had a more flowery aroma – less chocolatey than some others. More tart to the taste, but the final taste is amazing. It was so long lasting and filling in my mouth. I really liked it.

So, that was a great treat for us and we got to learn a bit about coffee auctions in the process!

Next review – a coffee from the Carmen Estate!