Plainspoken Coffee. A Coffee Review for Ordinary People by Ordinary People, #8.
I have been interested in trying coffees from Finca Hartmann since I traveled to Panama a couple of years ago. Finca Hartmann is in the Chiriqui highlands in the Boquete region, and most of the land is in shade coffee. It is a popular birding destination, and researchers are welcome (they offer a field station for use) — many associated with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute have published papers on research conducted there, some with Hartmann family members as co-authors (here is a partial list). Over 280 bird species have been recorded at the finca, and Christmas Bird Counts typically yield around 200 species. It is an example of a finca with a great deal of concern for preservation of biodiversity that has not been certified shade or organic. We tried several Finca Hartmann coffees from different roasters.
Paradise Roasters Palo Verde. This coffee placed sixth in the 2006 Best of Panama competition — the same competition in which the Hacienda la Esmeralda won first prize. There are two “sections” to Finca Hartmann, and Palo Verde is the smaller, southernmost one on the property. This was a medium roast, with no oil on the beans. I detected some sort of very sweet, fruity aroma in the beans that I found really nice.
As is typical, we tried this in the French press, Aeropress, and as a brew. Something had to have gone awry in the press, because it was pretty bad. It fared better as an Americano from the Aeropress, and as a brew, where it was a nice, smooth, sweet, classic coffee, with a hint of chocolate. In general, nobody was overwhelmed by it. It was variously described as “unspectacular,” “not a lot of depth,” and one taster said, “I’m not moved by it.” I think I’m beginning to foster snobs. 2 motmots. Also available green, for which there is a review at Coffee Cuppers.
Mayorga Coffee Roasters Hartmann Estate. This coffee was billed as a medium roast, but was leaning much darker than the Paradise Roaster selection, with all beans showing quite a bit of oil. The coffee beans were quite fragrant, and the coffee itself fresh from the French press had a slightly fruity fragrance — a couple tasters suggested cherries. This was a very well-balanced, smooth cup, without any distinctive characteristics, a classic cup. “It’s just a good cup of coffee,” Nighthawk suggested. I think a lighter roast might have coaxed some more interesting aspects out of the bean. 2.5 motmots.
Cafe Pronto Panama Boquete SHB, Hartmann Estate. This coffee was received a mere two days after ordering (truly pronto!), but had been roasted five days prior to ordering. Thus it was 8 days old when we tried, within it’s fresh period, but perhaps “middle-aged.” Nonetheless, when the water hit it in the French Press, it produced a moderate amount of bloom, and was the hands-down winner of the three.
It was also a medium roast, with some beans showing a bit of oil. The beans, both whole and ground, were very fragrant, sort of spicy, one of the most appealing aromas we’ve had from a Central American bean so far. Very hot, the coffee delivered a juicy, almost mouth-watering first few sips. It stayed just as good as it cooled, medium-bodied, with a very soft mouthfeel. I wasn’t sure what to think when I saw this descriptor from the roaster, but it is certainly an apt adjective. Brewed, it was also tasty, but lacked some of the pleasant subtleties found when prepared in a press pot.
We could call this coffee well-balanced, but “harmonious” might be a better description. As in many “classic” coffees, there were not a lot of flavors that jumped out. Yet it stood out from the other Finca Hartmann’s. Let’s call this a Classic ++ rated at 3.75 (nearly 4) motmots.