In 1964, a Swedish-born Californian banker by the name of Rudolph A. Peterson (1904-2003) purchased Hacienda La Esmeralda, which at the time comprised several hundred hectares in the area of Palmira. He had the intention of retiring there, but at the time he was the president of the Bank of America.
For the first few years following the purchase, Rudolph would visit the Hacienda every couple of months. In 1970 he became the director of Development for the United Nations and his obligations abroad grew, leaving him less time to visit the farm.
In 1973, his son Price absorbed the role of management of the Hacienda from his father. Price had moved to Panama a few years earlier and began to play a bigger role at the farm. He had studied neurochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and received his doctorate in 1961. His background in science has been a major benefit to the farm since absorbing management responsibility. In 1987, large sections of their property were planted with coffee trees. They installed a beneficio to process coffee directly on the farm.
In 1996 the Petersons came together to purchase another farm in the area, Esmeralda Jaramillo. It was on a section of this farm that they discovered the famous Esmeralda Special, Gesha trees, which had not been damaged by leaf rust as badly as other varieties on the farm. They had begun separating lots based on their location on the farm, and kept them separated throughout processing. By doing so, they were able to isolate the cup profile of Panamanian Gesha, honing in on the juicy acidity and multi-layered aromatics that it has to offer. While common practice today, this decision to separate lots was progressive and experimental at the time.
Their discovery of this rare varietal was groundbreaking in the coffee world. In 2004, the farm won the Best of Panama competition. Following that competition, they set a world record for the price paid for coffee at auction. That price has been shattered several times as they have garnered a reputation as one of the world's elite coffee producers.
All farms at Hacienda La Esmeralda are Rainforest Alliance Certified, attesting to Esmeralda's sustainable practices: reuse of leftover coffee pulp as a fertilizer; forest maintenance along watersheds; timing coffee tree pruning around bird nesting season; use of hydroelectricity and sustainable wood burning to run the coffee mill; and more.