About Panama Finca Lerida Geisha Black Honey
We have offered coffee from Finca Lerida in the past, and have always been impressed by the attention to detail in their processing methods. We were able to secure several lots from the farm this year when we attended the Best of Panama Competition, where Finca Lerida had three coffee lots win.
Cupping table at Finca Lerida
Finca Lerida is a farm with a rich and unique history. Its founder, Tollef B. Monniche, came to Panama from Norway in 1907 to work as an engineer on the Panama Canal. Tollef retired in 1924, and bought a small farm in Boquete, Panama with his wife - the property was called "Lerida" after the city in Spain. He built a house and on the property, and went to work planting coffee trees as well as fruits and vegetables. He built a dam on the farm, to provide water to the coffee processing plant there, and also developed and patented a device, called the "Sifon" to separate ripe cherries from unripe ones. This device is still in use today, not only at Finca Lerida, but also on coffee farms worldwide.
Today, Finca Lerida is run by the Chiari family, who coordinate coffee growing with surrounding rainforest preservation. It also houses a hotel, where patrons can take tours of the farm land and enjoy the ambiance of the rainforest. The farm sits at an altitude of 5250-6020 feet above sea level, and grows Caturra, Catuai and Geisha varietals, which are processed several ways.
Owner of Roastmasters, Barry, with Sonia, one of the owners of Finca Lerida
This lot is 100% Geisha, an heirloom varietal from Ethiopia that produces a blue-green elongated coffee bean that is especially aromatic and floral. Price Peterson, who owns Hacienda Esmeralda in Panama, experimented by planting it some years ago along with a broader group of varietals. The result was the rediscovery of a great cultivar with extreme fruitiness and floral scents and flavors, but with balance and finesse not seen in other coffees. Coffee farmers in other countries soon followed suit, and the varietal regularly takes home awards in Cup of Excellence competitions held throughout the world. The processing is what is known as "black honey", a brief explaination of which is required to understand the terminology. Since the advent of micro milling machines, most notably that developed by Penagos in Colombia, small farms have the ability to process their own coffee for a somewhat modest cost of entry. These machines use pressurized water mist to strip away the outer skin of the coffee cherry, and can remove pulp (the fruit surrounding the coffee husk) to a fine tolerance, leaving selective amounts of pulp to dry on the husk. When all the pulp is removed it is fully washed. When a tiny amount remains, it is called yellow honey; when a little more remains it is considered red honey, and a lot remaining is black honey. Neither the skin nor the pulp being removed results in a natural processed coffee.
- Coffee variety: Geisha
- Processing: Black Honey
- Farm: Finca Lerida's Splenderosa Farm
- Farm location: Jaramillo
- Province: Chiriqui
- District: Boquete
- Township: Los Naranjos
- Altitude: 5250-6020 feet above sea level
Cup Characteristics: Jasmine notes abound. Very nicely balanced combination of floral and fruity with hints of malabar pepper. Fruit penetration is medium to medium heavy. Well processed.
Roasting Notes: Like most dense, hard bean and delicate coffees, we suggest keeping the roast on the lighter side, maybe midway between first and second crack. This maximizes nuances, in this case the sweet acidity and floral Geisha notes that further roasting will diminish.
Panama coffee facts:
Population (2006): 1.3 million people
Coffee Production: 180,000 bags (60 kg)
Country bag capacity: 132 pounds - 60 kg
Domestic Consumption: 80,000 bags
Coffee Export: 100,000 bags
Cultivated Area: 26,000 Hectares (64,200 acres)
Harvests: October - February
Arabica Introduced: Arabica was imported from Costa Rica in 1820.
Specialty Coffee Regions: Boquete near Volcan Baru, Chiriqui.
Grades: Strictly Hard Bean (SHB), HB.
Farms: About 30,000 farms.
Botanical Varietals: Typica, Caturra, Gesha.
Panama is a rising star in the specialty coffee world. In the Boquete in particular, farmers are taking Arabica coffee cultivation to new levels and recent auctions of small, specialty lots have garnered record, if not silly, prices. Nonetheless, some of the coffee is excellent. Gesha, a varietal that stems from Ethiopia, has been grown here with good success, yet other cultivars noted above, can produce superb results.