The coffee harvest season in Panama is once a year. Beginning in October, in the lower lying of the farms we own, and running through to March/April for those located in the highest coffee growing regions.
For us, harvest season begins in fincas Cuatro Caminos, Dona Linda and Loma de Los Cedros. All situated between 1,350 and 1,550 meters. (just over 5,000 feet).
Next to come into harvest is the Horqueta cluster (creatively named Horqueta, 1, 2 and 3) These 3 farms were mainly raw land when acquired and are now starting to give us the first few cherries (3 years in).
Not enough to register for sales just yet, but enough for us to process, roast and sample to discover the unique flavour profiles of this region. Early indicators are that they will produce amazing Specialty Coffee with unique characteristics.
The remaining 6 farms, in the Jaramillo cluster, were the most recently acquired and still a few years away from producing their first crop.
Being the highest elevation farms in the portfolio, and with a direct correlation between altitude and quality, they should produce some of the highest scoring coffee by SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) standards.
The trade-off is that they take longer to produce, and the volume is slightly less.
Side Note: Cash flow-wise, a farm like Dona Linda can produce an equal return as a Jaramillo farm due to the increased levels of production.
Now that the coffee has all been harvested, processed and rested, it is time to start evaluating the quality of this year’s harvest.
Every year the team is evaluating, learning and putting changes in place to improve the following years crop.
This means not only looking for the qualities that are important to green coffee buyers, but also for indicators of where we can improve our post-harvest processing and our farming practices.
This can all be found when evaluating the coffee in the lab. Pretty cool stuff!
In the Specialty Coffee industry, buyers want fully traceable, zero defect coffee.
In our first 2 cycles with the new coffee processing mill we had a high level of defects as we worked through some kinks and perfected the timing and techniques.
This year we are very proud that our team have seen a reduction from around 30% in defects to around 5%. Industry standard is 8%.
As well as making sure we have high quality, defect free coffee, our team is also trying different processing techniques. Natural processed coffee is in high demand in the market today, so we are processing different micro-lots of coffee from various farms in this way. The results are excellent.
We are in discussions with dozens of interested buyers from Europe, the US, Middle East and Asia, as well as many local buyers. Whereas previously, 95% of the best coffee was exported, we are now seeing an increase in the demand for high end, specialty coffee here in Panama.
Times are changing!
No sooner did the harvest finish than the first rains of 2019 arrived in Boquete.
A welcome break from the heat and the farms immediately burst into life, literally.
Hundreds of thousands of coffee flowers turned our typically green coffee farms snow white, for a few days only.
Such a large volume of flowers is a great early indicator of a bumper crop next year.
Little by little and year by year we are getting closer and closer to our goals.
2020 and 2021 will mark important years for us and our investors.