Review: Panama Boquete

Review: Panama Boquete

 July 12, 2013
Boquete Region, Western Panama
1700-2000 MASL
Bourbon, Caturra, Typica
Wet process (Washed)


Panama’s premier coffee region is in the Boquete region, located near its border with Costa Rica on the slopes of the Baru volcano where soil, weather and altitude do such nice things for coffee quality! Panamas are known for their easy-drinking completeness, classic Central American smoothness and delightful sweetness. These are incredibly versatile coffees, handling nearly all roast levels and methods of brewing with class and grace.

Panama Boquete map

We roasted three batches of the Panama—light (City – City+), medium (City+ – FC) and dark (FC+-Vienna.)  After resting 36 hours, we cupped them side by side and compared the taste profiles.

Light Roast – Roasted light, the Panama beans are a bit mottled and uneven-looking as is common with light roasts, and the flavor is mild and fruity with hints of sweet citrus. Honey, vanilla and raisin with a touch of apricot predominated at this level. The body was somewhat light, but creamy in the mouth feel. The finish was a little tannic, like black tea. As it cooled, vanilla caramel came to the foreground. This roast level is best brewed drip or pour-over for delicate nonstop drinking, and the French press method produces a more intense version. It is probably not a good candidate for espresso.

Medium Roast –At medium roast, the beans look more even, but this one is still likely to have extra chaff clinging to it. (Ignore it; it doesn’t affect flavor.) At this level, the tannic quality becomes bright and zippy, like lemon and tart apple, but it’s kept in check by the honey and vanilla. I detected a hint of chocolate rising in the base. It’s still very sweet and fruity, but the extra acidity gives it a nice energy. This body is light to medium, and the feel is still silky and creamy with a clean finish.  Every method of brewing produced a very decent version of this coffee, though the French press emphasizes the acidity over the other great qualities.

Dark Roast – If I were to make single-origin espresso, this is the roast to choose. This coffee is so sweet and balanced from the start that dark roast manages to retain a good amount of these positive characteristics. Still, expect a more muted acidity, less sweetness and fruit, and more chocolate and dark caramel at this level. It is at its best when its dark roast is not so overly dark as to lose all the vanilla and honey.  As with most dark roasts, it will have more body weight and bitter chocolate notes, but it will also retain its clean, pleasant finish.

Recommendation:   I recommend the Medium Roast for obtaining the classic Central American profile—sweet, smooth, and just a little zippy. If you want espresso, go Dark, but not too dark so that you lose the wonderful bean qualities.

Enjoy your coffee!


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