Yes, it is Esmeralda again

      Roasters who bought Esmeralda at the now famous Best Of Panama auction a mounth or so ago paid $130 per pound.  The same coffee could also be aquired directly from the farm, when and if available, at it’s regular price, which I don’t know.  The retail cost to the consumer for the 12 oz bags from Counter Culture Coffee was $30.  Is this price worth it?  Ask yourself this, how much did you pay for your last hair cut?  How much did you pay for a glass of wine the last time you ate out?  How much did you pay for your cool shoes, boots, Abercrombie shirt?  Stop worrying about the cost of damn good coffee.

   I made a french press of the Esmeralda the other day, my first encounter with it, and I thought it came out a little under done.  It seemed tea-like, but with a perfectly clean and crisp acidity and beautiful finish.   The next day I had some as iced coffee and it was like the most fantasitc thing iced tea wished it could be, with a good coffee foundation to boot.  Then when I made another press pot I over shot the mark and it came out bitter and a bit flat.  Then I cupped it and it was the most delightful fruity chinese Lychee and pink fruit.   Then the next day I cupped it and the after taste was a displeasing tartness.  Later that afternoon it was a delicious plum.  I’m torn.  Do I like it or not?  The fragrance is always the most fantastic coffee aroma I have ever known.  The flavor changes on me from day to day depending on too many factors to grapple at once.

    All coffees have a sweet spot when it comes to time, temperature, turbulance, and throw weight.  It is never a simple mecanical excercise to hit the bulls eye.  What I have found difficult with Esmeralda is that it is a moving target.  This is simultaniously the best, and most fickle coffee I have known.

   Maybe my expectations are that it must always be great.  This hasn’t been my experience though.  This morning I felt kind of like a chump in a room with 20 people cupping Esmeralda, and I was the guy who didn’t like the after taste.  Every body else was like “I love the after taste, I wanna carry it around all day!”  I was like “um, does anybody have any gum?”  But after lunch, while giving samples to some wine experts, it was transending.

   It just goes to show you, a Jaguar may be a fine automobile, but it will be in the shop often, and it will cost a fortune to get it fixed.

    • bz
    • July 21st, 2007

    smelled some dry grounds this afternoon. the aroma carries a bit more spice this year, methinks.

  1. I don’t know what it was like last year, but I wouldn’t be surprized if it gets processed better and better every year.

    Just dry grounds, no drink?

  2. i had some a couple years back, the year it first “hit it big” on the int’l stage. i recall ranking it the best coffee i had cupped all year and noted its tea-likeness and–as everyone says–its tropical fruitiness. i seem to recall writing something in my notes to the effect of, “it’s like drinking hot pineapple juice.” at any rate, i haven’t had any since 2004. i. haven’t. had. any. since. 2004.

    maybe i’ll get lucky and some will be in my mailbox soon…

  3. Re processing…

    There were a lot more quakers and pales than should be for this expensive a coffee. It leads me to think that as one roaster offered, ‘it looks like they threw in some old crop’ might have credence or simply the drying was not as stellar this year. It’s odd to see such a dark Jade color and then such uneven paleness in a percentage of the beans.

  4. I almost posted about the quakers but decided not to. Since you bring it up, our roasters picked a bunch out by hand. Our meditations on the matter brought about the idea that if my coffee sold at such a premium, and there was so little of it, I might be tempted to pick every possible cherry availabe. This might include some under ripe ones, but that would keep the poundage up.

    This is only wild speculation and neither I nor any one I work with is making this accusation, we were only tossing thoughts around amoungst ourselves.

    There are other Panamanian farms now propagating from the Peterson stock, and this is the basis for my speculation that processing may get better in the future. Incentive to compete will nurture a continuing focus on quality.

  5. I didn’t see many under ripes but the water issue was irritating. I suspect uneven drying but old crop mixed in seems likely too. I don’t want to sort such an expensive coffee or throw away any portion of it. I’m glad someone else noticed as I think if we gloss over that then future crops will have a higher tolerance for the problems.

    I hope there is more competition and the quality gets better, it’s good already but at that cost, it should be spotless.

  6. it makes me a little ill to contemplate the thought that “processing may get better in the future.” doesn’t it for you, phil, and everyone who bought this coffee at this price? seriously, at that price per pound you could hire a small army of coffee monkeys to sort everything through and/or run it through the spectrometer five times. i would think near-zero to zero defects should be a requirement. imagine all the world’s other great food items having their respective flaws: a kobe steak with too much grizzle; a beautiful cigar with stems and soft spots; a brie with visible mold; etc. no one would accept that, certainly.

    if hacienda la esmeralda is going to run away with the prize every year they had better get their act together. a killer aroma will not be/should not be enough going forward.

    btw, jaime, the rest of the bag is aging nicely. that slight off stripe we felt was ben’s roast has mellowed into softer sweetness. less clove and more honeysuckle lemon.

  7. phil: any still around?

  8. Indeed, it is a mystery, and I make no accusations, since I am not there on the farm to see what is going on. It is all speculation, but the stuff still wins in blind cuppings with a pannel of judges.

    I did not make one press pot without passing out cups to all who sat near me, and my bag went fast, sorry. I know there were two bags left on Thursday that could be had if you called in and ask for it, but I have none left to sample out.

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