Panama’s gesha cultivar, originally descended from a landrace collected in the district of Gesha, near Ethiopia’s Keffa Forest, has had a niche marketplace all to itself for over 15 years. Of all the many attempts to cultivate the original gesha’s genetics across the Americas, many coffee tasters still believe nowhere is it better expressed than where it was first debuted: the Boquete valley in western Panama, under the command of the Baru volcano’s very specific soil and climate. Almost entirely as a result of gesha’s success, Panama is now an origin that constantly makes headlines in the specialty coffee world, mostly for the astounding auction prices in each year’s Best of Panama cupping competition, which now features dozens of gesha microlots processed a kaleidoscopic number of ways.
At Royal we are privileged to have a perennial relationship with Finca Lerida, a 900-acre estate in the famed Boquete growing region nestled under the ecological wonderland of Volcan Buru where over 550 species of birds make their home. Baru itself is an active stratovolcano that is Panama’s highest peak and the centerpiece of a 35,000 acre national park. In this area, tucked into the Continental Divide, Pacific and Caribbean winds alternate at different times of the year creating cooler temperatures, overlapping rainy periods, and limited dry months. The result is an extremely lush and microclimate where coffee—along with a number of tropical fruits—tends to thrive.
Finca Lerida is currently owned and managed by Sonia Amoruso and her extended family, who purchased the property in 2009. As a farm however, the estate dates back over 100 years. The property includes a vintage hotel with amenities that equal the valley’s natural beauty, and which serves as a landmark to local history and has been a source of income for the estate for generations. The hotel was the primary focus when Sonia’s family first purchased the estate. However Sonia, originally planning to manage hospitality, was quickly captured by the estate’s coffee production and has managed the coffee operations ever since. For more, see our producer interview with Sonia here
Sonia works with 30 year-round employees and another 60 people who meticulously pick ripe cherry during the harvest. Lerida’s central wet mill is as old as the farm itself, and fresh-picked cherry is still sorted for under-ripes and damages using the siphon invented by the original owner in the 1920s. Then the coffee is depulped, fermented, washed, and carefully dried on covered patios and raised bed. Finca Lerida also has housing and a school for employees and their families.