Monday, August 6, 2012

Esmeralda Special Geisha Caballeriza - sublime Panamanian coffee

Have you ever tasted the delights of a Special Geisha?  Well, me neither, so I woke up today all happy, feeling like I was a child again and it was Christmas morning; bursting with anticipation and excitement.

Esmeralda, my exotic mail-order Panamanian Special Geisha, was arriving this morning.  Hailing from the Jaramillo region, some 1,500-1,650 metres above sea level, she even came with a certification of quality from the Rainforest Alliance.

While I waited, I busied myself with making Esmeralda's new home presentable - I gave Miss Silva a good back-flushing and topped her up with fresh water, cleaned out the grinder and wiped down the bench top.

At around mid-morning, the Express Post delivery man dropped off Esmeralda at my front door - nestled in a little cardboard box for protection during her flight from Sydney.  Finally!

Esmeralda's heady scent just made me want to keep inhaling it: dark, rich cocoa with some ephemeral candy-like notes.

Eventually, I had to bite the bullet and put Esmeralda through her paces with Miss Silvia.  The first taste of this sweet nectar had to be perfect, so I didn't take any chances, pre-heating a cup with hot water and then temperature-surfing Miss Silvia to get it hot and heavy.

Ground reasonably fine - with a setting of 5 on my Sunbeam Cafe Series grinder - in an 18g double-basket with a light but firm tamp, making the cup of espresso was a joy to behold.  Thick, oily nodules of dark, glistening liquor began to drip slowly out of the twin fonts of the portafilter 5 seconds after I switched on the water, and when I switched it off at the 25th second, the cup contained a perfect compact shot of beautifully rich, dark espresso, swirling with flavoursome and aromatic oils and sporting minute bubbles testifying to the freshness of the roast.

The coffee was delicious - a rich cocoa nose with slight florals ("florals, WTF?" you ask? Yes I kid you not!), followed by a seamless, smooth and sublime taste experience of fresh, bright flavours: my favourite citrus notes in the forefront but not overpowering; a soft, slightly sweet back note; both of which were bridged by a creamy, rich coffee flavour (it is coffee after all!) accompanied by hints of caramel.  After the finished cup had been sitting on the counter for an hour, I couldn't help myself and had to have a sniff - it was surprisingly sweet: the caramel was dominant now, akin to the smell of brown coffee crystals.  In case you were wondering, no I don't have sugar in my coffee - it interferes with the complex flavours and there is enough innate sweetness in good coffee anyway.

Esmeralda Geisha - one of the most hyped-up coffees of the 21st century.  Oliver Strand of the New York Times' T Magazine Ristretto blog describes it as the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti of coffee. Ah yes pinot - another one of my loves. Also with those beautiful candy-caramel notes in the bouquet and flavour. But I digress.

I discovered this coffee on the Campos Coffee website last week.  Normally, I refuse to buy coffee beans online, because no website ever guarantees the freshness of the roast, or tells you when the beans have been roasted (more than 3-4 weeks old and the oils start to dry out, leaving a hollow, one-dimensional shadow of the freshly-roasted version).  With the Geisha, it's different.  They roast a new batch every Thursday to fill orders on hand, and then express post it out within hours of roasting.  Being on the other side of the country, I didn't expect to receive my Geisha on Friday, but my hopes were rewarded when it turned up on Monday, 4 days after roasting, a perfect time to start savouring the coffee and to track the evolution of its flavours over the next week or so.

But is it worth $45 for a 250g bag? I don't think you can think like that. Is a Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti worth $10,000 a bottle? It's a slippery slope; I for one could not prove that the incremental superiority in quality over another good quality coffee corresponds to the incremental increase in price point. It's more like an exponential curve, if you really wanted to be mathematical ... ish. Ultimately, it comes down one of market forces and supply and demand - there is a tiny supply of these beans available to a global market and there is always someone out there who has no price limit. Campos had to pay the price it paid to secure them for Australia, and good on them for taking the punt. It's the Geisha rule: if you want to enjoy that sweet nectar, you gotta pay. Worth a try? Certainly. Will it become my daily coffee of choice for years to come? Maybe when I start drinking Romanée-Conti every night with dinner ...


  1. Have you tried Proud Mary coffee

  2. Just checked out the Proud Mary website - it looks great! As for the Collingwood neighbourhood ... my good friend the Loco Cabron would love it!