Barista Magazine

JUN-JUL 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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103 www.baristamagazine.com and Alexandra, 21, a junior at CU Boulder. I moved back to Panama in 2010, but I had started doing sales and marketing for Esmeralda since 2005 from Puerto Rico. It was very rewarding to me to be able to offer this product that had such a large appeal to so many people. SA: I'm curious about how you and your family decided to start your own auction— you were the first producers to do it, and you set a precedent for it. RP: The debut of Geisha was in a Best of Panama auction in 2004 when we won fi rst place with the Geisha coffee. We won again in 2005, 2006, and 2007. In 2008, we decided that the best way to fi nd the market price would be through our own auction. In addition, it really opened our range of buyers by reaching out to all parts of the world. Originally we meant to only do the auction for a couple of years, but it became a tradition, and more important than that, it gave us a window to the coffee world in other countries. Once opened, we didn't want to close this window. So even this year, when we have a very, very limited yield, we are put- ting a bare minimum of coffee into our auction just to keep it going. SA: Since the big breakout of Geisha as a superstar in 2004, how have you seen the character and context grow and change, in terms of everything from how you produce it, to how so many producers around Central and South America have adopted it? RP: Mostly I have found that we are better able to differentiate character in Geisha now, whereas before there were not as many options. By keeping the coffee from different farms separate, the final cup will be much more dependent on the terroir, and unique flavors emerge this way. As more and more farmers started planting, we chose to differentiate ourselves through consistency and dependability. Of course it's impossible to reproduce coffees exactly, but we can now recognize distinct differences between our Geishas relative to the planting location—more jasmine in one area, more red fruit and berries in some areas versus tropical fruit flavors, etc. Experiments of all kinds, mostly with the processing, allow for fulfilling the individu- al tastes of a large part of the market. And as the years go by, coffee lovers are more and more aware of high quality, and what particulars they are looking for in a cup of Geisha coffee. SA: What are some common misconcep- tions about Geisha? About Esmeralda? RP: I don't even know where to start! A couple of years ago, I was in a restaurant in Boquete and I could overhear the conversa- tion at the table next to me. When I looked over, I recognized the Minister of Social Development of Panama telling the table next to me that we had called the coffee Geisha because the Japanese liked the name and the coffee was white like the face of a Geisha. What? If there is possibly still any doubt about this, we called the coffee Geisha because that was what it was named since 1932 in the documents that traced the variety out of Ethiopia. And misconceptions about Esmeralda? I think that many roasters and buyers located far away geographically believe that all of our coffee is really expensive. But we do have a full range starting with Catuais at $3.50 up to our $60-per-pound natural Geisha coffees. SA: What are your hopes for how your farms will grow and change in the next 10 years? Do you want to keep doing what you're doing, or are there new projects on the horizon? RP: We're always, always open to new projects, and I think that there will be new coffee-related projects in our future—may- be we will finally open a café in Panama or start a retail business. I also envision changes in the long-term on the farm level, mostly on the processing side. In 10 years, I think that we will trend towards how the wine world does process- ing: more temperature controls, stain- less-steel tanks, climate-controlled ware- houses, possibly inoculated fermentation, and technology which will help with both crop-disease control and flavor profiling. SA: Thank you, Rachel! Is there anything else you would like to add? RP: Yes. I'd like to add that it's really been a wonderful journey for me, the whole cof- fee world experience. I've made invaluable friends, whom I learn from every day. It's allowed me to travel for work to an extent that I never imagined when I was young- er, and that I have thoroughly enjoyed. It has provided a place where passion can be shared for something that outside of the coffee world is considered absurd: the flavor of a high-quality coffee! Coffee and the cof- fee world are my happy place, and I am ever so fortunate that we crossed paths.

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