Anne has a cold, and therefore forgot to take pictures, so we apologize for the wordy, non-photographic nature of this post.

I want to go to Panama.

Today, we were able to meet Daniel, Rachel, and Ricardo: coffee farmers from
Panama who are responsible for producing some of the best coffees in the world.

Daniel Humphries, awesome dude extraordinaire and founder of the New York Coffee
, invited us to a special coffee tasting event for the Panamanian trio,
who were enjoying an extended layover on their way to Tokyo, presumably for the
upcoming WBC (for information on that, visit We benefited
from their visit by being able to taste the legendary Hacienda La Esmeralda
, which recently sold for $130/lb at the Panama Cup of Excellence auction.

The cupping was held at The Tasting Room in Soho, who has a “vision of great
American wines paired with innovative cuisine created with the freshest local
ingredients.” I liked the restaurant immediately. Mostly because they had 4
different types of Sixpoint on draught. Their large, communal tables were great
for cupping, and I imagine that eating there would craft new friendships. They
also had some great decorations. Anne loved the bar set-up and a set of sliding
glass doors separating the main dining room from a back room. My favorite
aspect of the restaurant was the frosted-glass coelacanth mounted over the bar.
Anne and I are planning on eating there sometime in the near future.

not actual glass coelacanth

For the event itself, Daniel told us a story about his first public cupping at
Victrola Coffee Roasters in Seattle, where he first tasted Panamanian coffees.
Then he turned the floor over to the farmers themselves, who gave an overview of
their work on two estates. Daniel and Rachel talked about the farm they run,
including their sustainable practices that make them Rain Forest Alliance
certified. They also talked about the genetic difference between their
crazy-intense prize winning geisha coffee (which comes from the gesha varietal…
as opposed to typica or bourbon varieties… obviously…). Then Ricardo took over
and told us a little bit about his family farm – he’s a third generation coffee
farmer — as well as his secret to success: quality, quality, quality. He talked
about cultivating coffee the same way a chef talks about a meal. Without a
strong foundation (good soil, good climate, good varietal – like good
ingredients) you simply won’t make great coffee. All three of them clearly
showed that they take pride in their coffee, and they’re happy to share with
people how it’s done.

Ok, so, blah blah the farmers were amazing (can you tell Anne’s been writing for
awhile?), but what does it taste like? Can the “ridiculously” overpriced La
Esmeralda coffee really be as good as everyone says it does?

In a word, YES. And then some. And then – woah? Really? We tasted four
excellent coffees today, but the Esmeralda stood seemingly at a higher tier of
coffee. I have never tasted a coffee so different from the others. I, as a
righteous skeptic, firmly believed this coffee would not live up to the hype.
And now? Now I really feel honored to be one of the few people on the planet who
have tasted this coffee. Not to get all sentimental, but this coffee seemed
promising for the future of the industry. If we can end up with many, many
coffees that taste like they’re from another world, then we’ve got something
going. Neil asked if it was ok to compare the coffee to tea – which is actually
something people ask more than you’d think — to which I said, yes, of course, and
this tastes like a combination of a floral tea, like hibiscus, and coffee. I
honestly didn’t think I would turn into one of these people that rambles on and
on about this coffee (and believe me, the other coffees were worthy of rambling
also – particularly Ricardo’s organic Kotowa), but here I am.

Oh, who am I kidding. I’ll go back to watching Ace of Cakes.

this is Neil again:

As a surprise, a camera crew showed up at the event to talk with Daniel H. and
the farmers about the specialty coffee movement a bit and took a great interest
in the cupping ritual. It was fun, but I spent most of my time trying to avoid
being on camera. I failed. There’s a chance that I may end up on the news
sometime in the next few weeks because I was discussing the merits of iced
coffee with a few other NYCSers when the camera swung in our direction. It
would have been rude to dive under a table while I was in the middle of a

After the cupping, a few of us went to lunch at Acme, where I was able to have
that Sixpoint I’d been wanting since stepping into The Tasting Room. We talked
about coffee in general, and Panamanian coffee in particular, and went our
separate ways.

So excuse me while I find a good rate on tickets to Panama.


~ by neoney on July 26, 2007.


  1. Nice post, guys. Love your website.

    I think the only part you left out about the cupping was how you guys were totally instrumental in pulling the whole thing off. Cuppings don’t happen without timers and grinders and hot water and cups.

    Thanks so much for all your help. You guys are the best!

  2. It was our pleasure. Thanks again for inviting us. It was an amazing experience. Of course, now you have to figure out a way to top that…

  3. Thanks for your excellant post. I leave for Panama Wednesday, and was wondering what other coffees were cupped and what you thought of them. I will be in the Volcan area, where the Peterson estate is, and want to try several of the best coffees in the area.

  4. Hi Sandy, Thanks for your post!

    We also cupped two other coffees, all of which were amazing. Besides the Esmeralda, we tried a coffee from Carmen Estate and a couple of organics from Kotowa. The Kotowa farm has a tour that looks really interesting. Hope you have fun!

  5. […] espresso blend, Espresso Havana, which contains some of the Panamanian Geisha coffee that we wrote so enthusiatically about, and it was really […]

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