Wilford Lamastus of Elida Estate has done what no other producer has achieved in the 22 years of the Best of Panama, winning both the Washed and Natural Geisha categories in the 2018 competition.
In 2016, Wilford broke the Best of Panama record in the Geisha Washed category, and in this year’s event, he broke his own record.
Wilford submitted four Geisha variety coffees and placed first in the Washed Geisha category with 94.66 points for a Elida Geisha Washed (EGW), first in the Geisha Natural category with 93.34 points, and 12th with his El Burro Geisha Washed on 90.87 in the Geisha Washed category.
Several judges scored his winning coffee higher than 96 points and four judges scored it higher than 97 points. Wilford says it was the highest score some of the judges had ever given to a coffee in their life.
The Best of Panama took place from 22 to 26 May in Boquete, Chiriqui in Panama.
Since 1996, the Best of Panama represents the opportunity for local estates to promote the quality of their harvests. This competition is overseen and judged by national and international experts in the specialty coffee industry. For coffee growers, the Best of Panama continues to raise the bar for the quality Panamanian producers strive to achieve. The competition is divided into five categories, including Geisha and Traditional varieties, Natural and Washed processes, and Pacamara.
Wilford has achieved success in the Best of Panama competition for many years. He has won in other categories several times, including first in the 2002 Washed Catuai category. At the time, Geisha hadn’t been discovered. He has also placed in the top 10 of the Geisha categories on multiple occasions, placed several times in the top five Geisha category, and a few times in the top three, but says this year’s competition was a huge surprise for everyone involved in the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama (SCAP) ’s Best of Panama.
“Nobody has ever won both Geisha categories (washed and natural) in 22 years of competition. I still cannot believe it. This is an extremely tough competition, so many outstanding growers here in Panama,” Wilford says.
Unlike other years, Wilford says this year he involved more of his employees to cup and taste the coffees, along with himself and son.
“We did more micro-lots, more hand-crafted lots and the team was more concentrated on quality. At the end, the participation of my five-people team (I call them the dream team) of cuppers, together with my son, was the difference [compared to] other farms,” Wilford says.
To celebrate the win, Wilford bought a basket of groceries and goods for every one of his 80 employees and celebrated with them and his family, including his 86-year-old dad that was born at Elida.
Through the 20 years of Best of Panama, around 50 of Wilford’s coffees have been sold at auction. The 2018 auction will take place from 19 to 20 July. To register, visit auction.bestofpanama.org
“We have not missed a single competition with auction-qualifying coffees,” Wilford says.
Wilford manages the 100-year-old farm, where his family was born. “It’s in our blood and DNA,” he says. “It’s a passion for me, and for my 28-year-old son that works together with me.”
What’s unique about the coffees, Wilford says, is his farm’s micro-climate, pristine/undisturbed eco system, located and surrounded by a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation)-protected mountain site, the Baru Volcano National Park.
His farm also welcomes many species of beneficial micro-organisms, ultra-high elevation, well-managed, hand-crafted or designed micro-lots.
The high standard of Panama’s coffee is only set to continue, Wilford and Best of Panama Head Judge Will Young both anticipate the country to be the first to uncover a coffee that achieves 100 points one day.
“Panama does not stop,” Wilford says. “We have several competitive and comparative advantages: we are small growers, many of us are traditional growers that have incorporated many innovations, we have several coffee and wine people that have established geisha farms here with different techniques, we high pristine environment with high elevation, outstanding for coffee and we have a passion.”
Head Judge Will of Campos Coffee says if wine cultivars can achieve 100 in scoring, why can’t coffee?
“We have to believe that it exists in real life and not in heaven,” he says. “Like Geisha, a 100-point-scoring coffee has to be out there. On the final night of the event I told everyone in the room, about 300 people, that the first 100-point score will come from Panama. I truly believe that.”
This was the first time Will had Head Judged Best of Panama after seven years judging the prestigious event. He says the responsibility was an honour when faced with such an impressive lineup of coffees.
“The top 10 coffees all scored 92 and above, and to see Wilford achieve the highest score in Best of Panama history of 94.66 is just incredible,” Will says. “One of my particular favourites was tasting an Esmeralda Geisha in the traditional category, an SL28 varietal that scored 92, it was gorgeous with big floral and berry notes. It was the first SL28 awarded in the Best of Panama. It was more complex that a Pacamara, and for this reason in future it will probably end up in its own judging category because it scored so highly and flattered the other Catuai coffees.”
For information on the winning coffees and Lamastus Family Estates, visitwww.elidaestate.com