Cup of Gold: Making the best of the best available to anyone

Esmeralda Jaramillo

Campos Coffee is releasing its most expensive coffee to date, Esmeralda Jaramillo from the 2019 Best of Panama, in single serves to make this Geisha experience available to anyone.

Coffee is often compared to wine. Both beverages originate from plants, can possess complex flavour profiles, and offer varying degrees of quality based on how they are produced and processed.

The Bordeaux region of France is synonymous with high-quality wine, thanks largely to its ideal climate for growing grapes and the work of its producers. According to Will Young, CEO of Campos Coffee, if coffee was to have an equivalent, it would be the Baru Volcano area of Chiriqui province in Panama.

“There are so many micro-climates in that area. You’ll be standing on one crest, watching a rainstorm one kilometre away that never touches where you are. It’s what happens when the climate is being affected by both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, because Panama is this skinny piece of land between the two,” Will says.

“The Baru Volcano houses everything you need to grow stunning Panamanian coffee. When you mix in a varietal like Geisha, grown by the very best producers in separate micro-climates, this delivers the most complex coffees you can imagine.”

While originating in Ethiopia, Geisha is now more commonly associated with Panama and was popularised at the 2004 Best of Panama (BOP) competition by the Peterson family of Hacienda La Esmeralda after its “rediscovery”.

Rachel Peterson tells BeanScene when growing and selling Geisha, it’s important that the coffee achieves the qualities the varietal is known for.

“Complex and intense aromatics are a must. It should always have florals in the cup, along with stone fruit notes, and should be sweet – from when it’s brewed until it’s stone cold,” Rachel says.

Will and Campos have been involved in the BOP since 2011, with Will appointed Head Judge in 2018. He has formed close, personal connections with Panama’s producers, the Petersons in particular. In 2019, Campos brought two of Hacienda La Esmeralda’s highest cup scoring coffees to Australia – Super Mario and Jaramillo.

Esmeralda Jaramillo
Super Mario and Jaramillo are sold in 18-gram single-serve pouches.

“It’s been 15 years since Esmeralda first introduced Geisha to us and it was from the Jaramillo farm that they found the first Geisha as we know it today,” Will says. “They could have kept it to themselves but instead decided what’s best for farmers and the wider industry was to share it with everyone else. It’s from those seeds that many of the astonishing prices and award-winning coffees we see around the world are coming from.

“That’s reason enough to want to try this coffee. These are the ancestors of all the coffees that are rocking it right now, making an impact on competitions and the ultra-premium coffee category.”

Of the two coffees, Super Mario was released first on 1 October. Campos purchased the natural processed coffee from the Peterson’s own Esmeralda Special Auction for $524 per kilogram. Will gave the coffee a cupping score of 95 out of 100, saying the coffee practically jumped off the table and screamed ‘I am amazing’.

The coffee takes its name from the Mario region of Jaramillo farm, which Rachel says has always produced flavourful and aromatic coffee.

“On this occasion, we took only the very upper limit of the already small lot and kept it separate throughout the processing,” Rachel says. “Because of the weather conditions, it took a little longer to dry than usual, which allowed a more balanced flavour, body, and aftertaste to develop in the coffee.”

Campos purchased Jaramillo from the 2019 BOP auction for US$233 per pound, or about $752 per kilogram. Will awarded the coffee 96 points out of 100 on the cupping table, where it averaged 94.25, less than one point below the top scoring coffee in the washed process category. Rachel says the washed process highlights the inherent characteristics of the coffee.

“This is a coffee we wanted to do as a clean washed because of the quality of the beans and the harvest itself. It encompasses a whole bunch of attributes you want to taste in a Geisha or when cupping a coffee – an excellent fragrance, flavour, body, and acidity,” Rachel says.

“Putting that coffee next to another is a good way to educate the market on what they should be looking for in a Geisha – jasmine aromatics, bergamot and peaches in the cupping notes, and citric acidity.”

Though Jaramillo placed second in the washed category overall, Will says it was the coffee that left the biggest impression on him at the competition.

“The coffee was so clean and bright, while still having a vivacious aspect which you don’t often get in a fully-washed,” he says. “We went all in on the coffee, expecting to pay a lot for it. When the price kept going up in the auction, we got a bit worried, and in the end, decided to move our limit upwards to secure the coffee that stood out most on the table.”

Will says due to the level of quality presented at the BOP, as well as Esmeralda’s own auction, Campos decided to focus on the coffees with a high fidelity and impact.

“We could’ve bought about eight good coffees or one or two standout hits. If someone is paying more than $20 for a cup of coffee, it’s got to be as remarkable as an amazing wine. You don’t buy a $100 glass of wine and expect it to taste like everything else,” Will says.

Esmeralda Jaramillo
Hacienda La Esmeralda won the Panama Cup for overall performance in the 2019 Best of Panama.

“We want to emphasise the fact that these coffees do stand out and are worth the money being charged, to show that this category of ultra-premium luxury coffee exists and highlight it in all its glory.”

To roast these coffees, Campos purchased a 2.5-kilogram-capacity Diedrich roaster that could handle the 500-gram batch sizes needed to make the most of the “nano-lots”. Campos Chief Coffee Officer Adam Matheson says this ensures coffee is fresh when sent to customers.

“Getting the best results and showcasing this coffee is really important to us,” Adam says. “Esmeralda has put this amazing coffee in our hands, and we owe it to them to showcase its amazing quality.”

A light roast profile was applied to Jaramillo to tailor it for filter brewing. Campos’s tasting notes for the coffee include bold jasmine, tutti frutti to encapsulate its fruity flavours, and orange sherbet to reflect the dominant citrus.

“The lighter roast means we can tap into some of the elements we think are special about Jaramillo, like the acidity and high flavour intensity,” Adam says.

“This coffee is an opportunity to try coffees at the top of the quality pyramid. It’s important to us that consumers can experience that.”

Campos sells the coffees in 18-gram single serve pouches, charging $18 for Super Mario and $22 for Jaramillo. It will also be serving the coffee as a Geisha experience poured by its top baristas instore for $26 a cup. Despite being the highest prices Campos has ever charged for a cup of coffee, Will says the single-serve model makes it available to the wider community.

“In the past, we’ve sold premium coffees in 200-gram bags for more than $100, but felt that this is like selling a case of Château Haut-Brion wine when most people only want a bottle,” Will says.

“We thought hard about who’s going to be buying this coffee. It’s really the baristas, roasters, and café owners who work in the industry, and people who are really passionate about coffee. But not everyone has hundreds of dollars to spare to buy 200 grams of this astoundingly good coffee. We felt everyone should have the ability to taste the best coffee in the world and not spend too much money on it.”

Will hopes Jaramillo will also open people’s eyes to how far away from commodity coffee the best ultra-premium coffee can be.

“If you pay $4 or $5 for your everyday coffee, a $26 cup of coffee jolts the system and people want to challenge it because they think all coffee tastes the same,” Will says.

“If most days you’re drinking coffee that scores in the mid-80s, drinking one of these in the mid-90s demonstrates how wide the range actually is. It opens people’s eyes to the range and the fidelity between coffees.”

This article appears in FULL in the December 2019 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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