Introduction by Chris Kornman
CJ1009 – Panama Los Naranjos Lerida Estate Natural Geisha Crown Jewel from the Lerida Estate 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.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a decade since Price Peterson’s unusual coffee swept the Best of Panama competition and ignited a feverish global appetite for the variety known as Geisha. The actual story, of course, precedes 2006 by more than a generation and didn’t really start in Panama, though the country – and Peterson’s Hacienda La Esmeralda in particular – deserve credit for drawing the spotlight on the cultivar.
Likely originating somewhere close to the town of Gesha in remote western Ethiopia, berries were picked and transported to Kenya, then to Uganda and Tanzania, and finally across the ocean to the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center in Costa Rica where attempts to cultivate earnestly began in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Planting there, and shortly thereafter in Panama, were largely abandoned due to low productivity and poor quality. It’s generally accepted today that the variety is fickle, and that its best attributes are highlighted by a combination of elevation, rainfall, soil and nutrient composition, and a myriad of other environmental and horticultural factors. It seems apparent that either early trials lacked the necessary conditions to produce the sweet, floral attributes now recognizably associated with Geisha, or that those attributes simply weren’t valued the way they are today.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
This particular Geisha, is from the north side of the city of Boquete, consists of characteristically large and long beans, and has been precisely dried. The green is fragrant and fresh. One of the more notable attributes (other than its very consistent moisture figures) is the high density. And with 90% sorting above 16 screen size, there’s really not a whole lot more you could ask of a green coffee.
Roast Analysis by Chris Kornman
Roasting a high value coffee like this one can be a nerve-wracking experience. The long shaped beans don’t always react the way you might expect, and the delicate flavors can be masked by an inattentive eye.
I elected to try two drastically different approaches with the coffee, albeit in a relatively narrow color range, to see how far the coffee would be willing to stretch. My first roast (PR-0281, gray below) was an exercise in patience, with small gas adjustments (similar to my typical Ethiopian profiles) leading up to First Crack. The coffee felt like it lagged a bit, despite very consistent rate of rise of temperature throughout the roast, but I tried not to push the gas too hard for fear of burning the coffee.
My second roast (PR-0282, red below) was much quicker, with higher gas settings and fewer adjustments throughout the roast. I again strived to maintain a consistent rate of rise throughout Maillard, with a small push just prior to first crack. Though it spent less than a minute and a half of post crack development, the coffee still lost nearly 17% of its weight and ColorTracked at 59.29.
We enjoyed both of these coffees on the cupping table, a mere 0.08 points separating the average scores. The longer roast, unsurprisingly, exhibited a little more sweetness and body with a little lower acidity, while the quicker roast seemed to elicit more precise flavor notes ranging from watermelon and strawberry to grapefruit and sweet herb.
Brew Analysis by Evan Gilman
Panamanian Geisha coffees have a very solid reputation in today’s specialty coffee scene. Our CJ1009 – Panama Los Naranjos Lerida Estate Natural Geisha Crown Jewel is not only a figurative mouthful, it is also unabashedly a natural, with distinct (but not overbearing) melon notes. What really struck me about this coffee was the complexity of flavor. Once initial acidity left my palate, it was swiftly replaced with caramelized sugars. The finish was another flavor altogether; deep chocolate and vanilla welled up for a lingering sweetness. Drinking coffees like this one is truly an experience.
Here are Royal Coffee headquarters, we had a roundtable with two Chemex pots, one of each roast (PR-281 and PR-282). PR-282 was our collective favorite; we noted it as being more floral, effervescent, and nuanced than PR-281. The latter had plenty of juiciness, however, with notes about texture taking the foreground.
Since this is a relatively expensive and rare coffee, I chose not to pull it as espresso. Of course, I’m sure I would have been sweetly rewarded, but the amount of waste that occurs in the process of making espresso is a serious deterrent to using a Panamanian Geisha. Below you can see a few extractions using Chemex, and some collected notes from both the Crown and trading teams.
My first brew was used to suss out the character of each roast; I tried for exactly the same pour, and the same parameters. I then attempted to exaggerate their character with changes in brewing technique in the second brewing session. PR-281 exhibited more body, so I ground the coffee finer, dosed less, and poured a bit quicker in order to have a similar extraction time. PR-282 was lighter and brighter, so I ground the coffee coarser, and poured more slowly in order to affect a tart and effervescent character.