I cupped the auction samples for the Tuesday auction of Panama Esmeralda Especial, their Gesha (or Geisha as everyone else writes it) lot selections. I guess being the most celebrated coffee of a celebrated cultivar has its downside, and it's easy to take shots at Esmeralda Gesha when it isn't anything but a 95+ point coffee. But the lots this year showed the full range of qualities, which oddly ended up ranked in order from lot 1 to 7 as they are in the auction. 1-4 lots are solid coffees, 5-7 are second tier... well, 7 is maybe even third tier Gesha with muddled character. But it begs the question; how good is great Gesha and how good is average, lower-grown Gesha. It's a question that came up often at the Best of Panama competition (see my video listed below). Do we compare Gesha only to itself, where the lower grown lots suffer in scores, or globally to all other coffees, where even the lower grown lots score well, be they a bit murky and ill-defined in cup character? Should we compare them to fine washed Ethiopia coffees, which bear some resemblance in terms of flavor (jasmine, berry, bergamont, light body, etc)? And this leads to the question of how to price Gesha. Is it 3x better than a great Yirgacheffe, and therefore deserving triple the price? How should a mediocre Gesha be priced, when it is still a very interesting cup ... and doesn't that price encourage everyone to plant this type, even when they have no hope of growing great Gesha? And how will it be priced in the future when everybody and their uncle grows it? (They already do - wait a couple years for all this Gesha to come into production!) Did anyone else see the NY Times article about the P'ur Tea price bubble in China and think not a little about the Gesha bubble? All I can say is that the 95+ point Gesha of last year does not exist, I believe, in the small harvest of this crop. Sure, the Esmeralda is great, but is it like the #2 lot in last years auction, or the #3 peaberry? Wasn't the #6 lot we offered at around $10 last season still a really nice cup, be it not the best Gesha ever? It gives me pause, since I am sitting here at home on the weekend trying to brew the #1 lot in the Tuesday auction, trying to get a great result in Vacuum pot, Aeropress, Pour-over, and ... well... it's a nice coffee, but not the 93.5 I gave it in my cupping room Friday. So it's not just about asking whether the marketplace should encourage this, should pay this, should endorse it. I am asking myself how I should behave as well, and what best serves our customers. I don't want to be part of any bubble, to wake up some morning and regret being involved in hype. I am not saying the Gesha phenomenon is that, but it's a good question that I need to ask myself, and I hope others do as...
Sweet Maria's Weblog
It's a fantastic day ... the day I get to announce that new crop Kenya coffees have arrived. And we are dropping this Kenya bomb to maximum effect: THREE new auction lot peaberry coffees all at once, heralding in what I think is an epic year of great Kenya coffees. Kenya Nyeri Peaberry -Mutwewathi Factory, a floral cup with apple-apricot compote and pink-grapefruit flavors. Kenya Kirinyaga Peaberry -Gakuyu-ini Factory, a fruit-bomb with complex lemon flavors followed by raisin and grape when it cools. Kenya Kiambu Peaberry -Ndumberi Coop, the cup is a delicate balance between bright fruit and refined sugar, with a pepper accent. Click-through to the full reviews for more cupping notes and farm facts.
At the Best of Panama competition, a very interesting conversation about coffee varietals ... and a lousy looking video. Sorry about the lameness - I was more engrossed in the conversation than making it look good.
I was looking at Google Earth and pondering the relationship between the excellent coffees of Northern Peru and the odd absence of Ecuadorean coffee in the United States. We have a really nice lot from Ecuador now, the Puyamgo Loja, so things are changing indeed; but the potential of Ecuador coffee, at least in terms of small lots from particular regions, has not been fully developed. From the north of Peru, we have the Peru FTO San Ignacio Cajamarca region coffee. Geographically these coffees are not that far from each other, and are grown in similar terrain. But the differences in flavor offer 2 interesting interpretations of an Andean coffee appellation. The Peru has a wonderful candy-like sweetness when kept in the City+ range and that's what we were shooting for here, final roast times were around the 14:30 minute mark with final thermoprobe temperatures right around 427 degrees. The Ecuador is a more balanced cup at City+ with a wide range of flavors harmoniously working together to satisfy--again we went for City+ with roast times in the 14-15 minute range and final thermoprobe temperatures of 428 degrees. Checking back two days after roasting I am very impressed with the Ecuador lot we just brewed up here in the warehouse. Yesterday on barely 24 hours rest the cup was a little bitter, and not quite as developed as it is today. As I take my last sip I can taste the wonderful combination of bright alto notes and the nice body that makes this a really great "drinking" coffee. What do you mean, all coffee is for drinking isn't it? Well, yes, however some origins excel at producing great mild coffees that have the right touch of both sweetness and heft. Hope you enjoy two great lots from these Andean neighbors, we already new Peru could produce stellar lots to rival pricey Colombian coffees, now we must recognize the potential for Ecuador to join the party!
So we finished the Best of Panama competition this afternoon with an unusual twist: re-roasting and re-cupping the top 8 coffees. There was enough concern on the jury about variations in the roast levels that some felt they could not judge the coffee fairly. One was quite light, several a bit dark. But the fact is, these were a very difficult set of samples to roast. A pacamara, 2-3 geisha, some miel coffees, and one really weird low grown lot. Nobody is quite sure how that slipped in... Anyway, Maria noted the results at the award ceremony as best she could while I chased around after Ben: 10. Callejon Estate -Alvado 9. Cafe valentine 8. Lerida Estate -Collins 7. Kotawa -Koyner 6. Cafe Ole -Monchi 5. Elida Estate -Lamastus 4. Carmen Estate Paso Ancho -Carlos 3. Don Gulliano - Gonzalo Rojas (Pmara) 2. Gesha Carleda 1. Esmeralda Especial Gesha So it's not a huge surprise, Esmeralda entered again after a hiatus and won. Their Gesha lot was truly spectacular next to the other 2 in the top 10 coffees. This is a rough list with a few misspellings for sure - So after a couple weeks on the road it's back to California tomorrow and back SM on Monday! -Tom