Introduction by Chris Kornman

This Catuaí lot is the sibling to CJ1009, a lovely natural Geisha from the Lerida Estate, which has an impressive history and rich heritage. Sometime around 1920, the land was sold by a local farmer to a man named Tollef Bache Monniche. Monniche, a Norwegian, found himself in Panama after immigrating to the United States and accepting work as a lead engineer on the Panama Canal Project. Upon his retirement, he sought a quiet existence, so he and his wife, Julia Huger, moved to the farm in Los Naranjos, a neighborhood just north of the town of Boquete in Chiriquí, Panama.

Once settled, the couple began cultivating fruits and vegetables and eventually developing much of the farm into a coffee plantation. Their first major harvest in 1929 yielded an impressive quality that sold to Germany and sparked a global interest in the region’s coffee. Monniche’s engineering background led to the development of a siphoning device used in processing to separate low density coffee; the invention became popular in the region and replicas can still be found in use today. Among his other impressive hobbies, Monniche’s penchant as a naturalist led to cataloging the snakes and birds of the region, and his collection of wildfowl was acquired by Chicago’s Museum of Natural History.

In 1956, the aging couple returned to the United States and sold the 365 hectare estate to Alfredo and Inga Collins. The Collins family remains owners of the land to this day, preserving the land (including a significant portion that remains native forest), cultivating the farm, and welcoming guests to their charming, vintage hotel. The land itself exists on the border of La Amistad International Park and in the shadow of Volcán Barú, an active volcano and the highest peak in the country.

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Green Analysis by Chris Kornman

Catuaí is a dwarf variety with copious proliferation throughout the Americas. Originating from a hybridization of Caturra and Mundo Novo in Brazil, the coffee is resistant to wind and rain, relatively high yielding, can be planted more closely together than larger cultivars, and requires some precision in fertilization.

This particular Catuaí, from Lerida Estate on the north side of the city of Boquete, is very fragrant. Stable moisture with slightly higher than average water activity and a remarkably high density reading mean you’ll want to pay close attention during the roast. The density, the size (consistently large), and the shape (round, like half-circles) remind me a lot of Kenya AA SL-28s. Of course, the coffee is dry-processed and from Panama, and takes on a life of its own in the roaster, so the comparison really begins and ends with appearance.

Roast Analysis by Chris Kornman

A colleague once told me “the coffee wants to roast one way, and the machine wants to roast another way, and the roaster tries not to get in the way.” I’m not sure I always agree… there are times when the person at the controls needs to take decisive action to effect the direction of the roast. But this coffee seemed to be in sync with the Probatino I’ve been using for these analyses, and so I tried not to get in the way.

The longer, lighter roast (PR-0308) was a little more tart, a little less sweet, and a little thinner, and we generally preferred the slightly darker roast (PR-0309). I eased off the heat during first crack during this shorter roast, having pushed a little higher with the gas, and this may have been the difference-maker. That being said, both roasts were quite juicy and drinkable. The coffee responded amicably to a lack of intrusion on my part, aside from a few gas adjustments here and there to keep the momentum up around 5-8 degrees per 30 seconds of roasting after Maillard reactions began.

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Brew Analysis by Evan Gilman

For this astoundingly fruity coffee, Chris and I attempted to brew identical Chemex; the only thing getting in the way of truly identical brews for each of his roasts was difference in our pouring technique. In what I affectionately call the “Red Team” versus “Blue Team” methodology (Chris formerly worked at Intelligentsia, while I worked at Blue Bottle – you guess the colors), the Red Team tends to rinse the filter, bringing the fine grounds to the bottom of the brew bed. The Blue Team tends to avoid rinsing the sides, leaving fine grounds suspended on the side of the filter. The result is a faster brew for the Blue, and a steadier and slower brew for the Red. Check out the results below:

Both brews and both roasts were simply delicious. Even with different methodology for brewing, the result was consistently tasty. One thing I noticed after looking back at the notes was that PR308 came across as immediately sugary, while PR309 displayed its acids up front, fading into sugary marzipan flavors. Who’s to say what’s best? Either way you look at it, this is one tasty coffee.

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