Coffee is full of myths and mystique. Though it is widely accepted that it was first discovered in Ethiopia, it’s not clear exactly who first roasted and brewed coffee into the drink we know and love today. Some say it was a monk, some say it was Arab merchants. Ethiopia is also home to the region of Gesha, which is the original birthplace of the famed Gesha/Geisha variety that for many years was the crowning glory of specialty coffee. Though Geshas continue to fetch incredible prices at auctions, there are other coffees nowadays that are equally enthralling.
When this little known variety suddenly appeared on the cupping tables during a cup of excellence competition in Panama back in 2004, the world was turned on its head. Many who were involved in the event recall it being a ‘transformative experience’. How was it possible that an Ethiopian variety had ended up on the cupping table? Turned out, the culprit was a farm called Finca La Esmeralda, which I visited back in 2014.
In the years that followed, there was a literal run on these coffees and due to their limited production yield, these coffees fetched incredible prices, sometimes surpassing $6.000 per pound. Panama’s geographic characteristics make it the perfect location for growing extraordinary coffees. Most of them come from around Boquete, a town on the slopes of the Barú volcano, which provides nutrient rich volcanic soils and has a unique micro climate that is perfect for high altitude coffees like the Geisha.
But it doesn’t always have to be a Geisha, right? In fact, there are many more exciting little known varieties that are coming out of Panama that offer delicious coffee experiences and cost a fraction of the price. One such variety is the Chicho Gallo, which was named after Mr. Ratibor “Chicho” Hartmann of Finca Hartmann.
Finca Hartmann is one of those super star farms that everyone wants to work with and whose coffees have won multiple competitions around the world. In Europe, they have been working with the people behind Goldkind, the boutique roastery from Austria that is our GEMS partner for February, since 2013. Originally set up as a green coffee import business with a strong focus on Panama, hence the name Panama Varietals, the company wanted to bring the country’s finest coffees to European roasters.
In 2019, founder Uschi Zimmermann and her family decided that they also wanted to roast those coffees and offer them directly to consumers and coffee bars, thus Goldkind was born. Since most farms in Panama are family-owned, they sell their coffees as much as they sell their stories. Goldkind attempts to do these families and their teams justice by showcasing these often exquisite coffees and offering them to people like you and me.
That is why I am particularly excited to have Goldkind on board for this upcoming GEMS edition. The Chicho Gallo is originally an Ethiopian heirloom, which the name does not give away. This unique characteristic lends this coffee and astonishing cup profile that is both fresh and floral but also sweet and fruity at the same time.
If you’ve never had this varietal before, then this is your best chance to get a taste.