Coffee review: Caribou Coffee Roastmaster Reserve Panama Maunier

by on September 17, 2007

Plainspoken Coffee. A Coffee Review for Ordinary People by Ordinary People, #27.

Caribou Coffee’s latest Roastmaster Reserve is Panama Maunier, from Panama’s Boquette region in Chirqui province.

Caribou indicates this is an estate coffee, named for French flower grower and former owner Monsieur Gilbert Maunier de La Espriella. Things have become a bit more complicated since Maunier sold the farm in 1985 to Plinio Ruiz, founder of Casa Ruiz SA, a well-known producer, processor, and coffee exporter in Panama.  Other Casa Ruiz brands include La Berlina or Finca Berlina and Panamaria.

Ruiz added more land adjoining the Maunier Estate, as well as processing beans from neighboring farms. From the multiple sources I consulted, including the Casa Ruiz site itself, “Maunier Estate” coffee comes from a number of farms, not just one estate. The last several years, Maunier Estate coffee has placed in the Best of Panama competition. It’s possible these competition/auction lots are isolated from the original Maunier farm, but given Caribou’s volume, the Roastmaster’s Reserve is no doubt the standard multi-farm blend sold under the “Maunier Estate” brand.

Maunier grows 40% caturra, 30% bourbon, and 25% typica at 1400 to 1700 meters. Much of Panama’s coffee is grown in a fairly sustainable manner. Another Casa Ruiz web site states that their coffees are grown in an environmentally-friendly manner under shade with little or no chemicals (several of their brands are, in fact, organic). I was not able to unearth any specific further details on their growing methods.

On to the coffee. This is a light roast (a “3″ on Caribou’s 1-10 scale), a wise choice for Central American coffees, whose delicate flavors are easily erased by more aggressive dark roasts. Even so, I braced myself to distinguish and describe yet another mild-mannered Central American. Other than the crazy geisha, we haven’t had much to say about most Panamanian coffees, which have the “classic” coffee profile.

Caribou’s Maunier is no exception. In a nutshell, it was actually more boring than many other Centrals; I would describe it as fairly one-dimensional. It wasn’t bad, really, it just didn’t have any spark to speak of and not many sweet chocolately tones one usually finds in these coffees.

Also unlike any Central I can recall, rather than a bright, light body, the Maunier seemed much heavier, nearly syrupy when prepared in a French press. Clearly, this wasn’t a result of a dark roast. We thought perhaps instead we’d been a little careless in preparation, but this was one characteristic that stood out over repeated tastings. Later, I reviewed the various cup profiles on Maunier, which described it as floral, herbal, somewhat spicy or winey, and acidic — and with heavy body. While we got some interesting floral and “bubble gum” aromas from the beans and ground coffee, in the cup the Maunier was rather generic, save for this full-bodied mouthfeel.

It is this rich body that I think will appeal to many ordinary American coffee drinkers, who tend to not appreciate subtlety and seem to like sturdier coffees. There’s nothing offensive about the Maunier. Folks not looking for anything intriguing or unique will find Caribou’s Maunier to be a classic, straightforward coffee with a body that will stand up to cream, sugar, or other additives. We were a little uninspired, and gave it 2.5 motmots.

More info:

  • History of Maunier Estate (pdf).
  • 2001 review of a Maunier Estate from Coffee Review.
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Revised on January 20, 2011

Posted in Caribou Coffee,Coffee reviews,Latin America,Retail and specialty roasters

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