Happy National and International Coffee Day!
As you gaze into your mug of dark and lovely wake-the-heck-up this morning, slowly shifting through the haze of sleepiness into the land of the awake and productive, take a moment with me to contemplate the incredible amount of work it took to get from rich soil in a country thousands of miles away to the ceramic vessel you have before you. This is the story of Mama Cata.
Mama Cata Estate, located in Boquete, Panama, is owned by Jose David Garrido Perez and is part of a larger group of family farms extending back generations. What is unique about the Mama Cata estate is two-fold: how it got it’s name and how it became hugely influential in the rise of specialty coffee in Panama. Before Jose David’s ownership, a man named Mr. Fisher owned the farm. When Mr. Fisher lost his wife, he married his sweet Jamaican maid, Catalina. Catalina Fisher was known for her kindness, cooking food for the workers, and for daily shoot-outs with the neighbors. The workers old enough to remember called these the “Tea Time Shootings.” Thus, from the love Mr. Fisher had for his gun-toting wife, Mama Cata Estate was born.
Back in the days of the “Tea Time Shootings,” Mr. Fisher brought Geisha seeds to the farm and began growing them in small lots. His main focus, however, was on the more traditional Typica varietal. The Typica lot performed highly in the Best of Panama competition, winning the category three times. In the early 2000’s, the specialty coffee industry re-discovered Geisha coffee and it is now known as one of the best and highest priced coffees in the world. The Garrido family saw their chance to enter their Geisha into the Best of Panama, but lacked the large amount required for entry into the competition. In 2005, they created a blend, combining beans from their small Geisha lot with their more sizeable Typica lot. Adding the Typica varietal to the Geisha balances out the Geisha, giving it more body, making it a touch less delicate, and (good news, coffee lover) making it easier on the pocketbook. This blend finished second only to the legendary Esmeralda Estate’s Geisha coffee.
But our story doesn’t stop there. Each coffee cherry is hand picked at optimal ripeness by strong and dedicated workers. After that, each cherry is depulped and the remaining mucilage washed away in a washing station to reveal the glorious coffee bean itself, which is then laid out to dry. After drying, the remaining parchment is removed and the beans are bagged in their familiar burlap to begin the 3000-mile-plus journey to us. In the spring of this year, our fearless leader Jeff Taylor was in Panama judging the Best of Panama competition. When he cupped a coffee from the Mama Cata Estate, it was love at first sip. He ended up scoring it at over 90 points, the second highest score in the Geisha category. Today, PT’s coffee is proud to be Direct Trade partners with Jose David and Mama Cata Estate.
With the delicate Mama Cata Toña, only a light roast will do to bring out the right flavors. After careful roasting, the coffee is packaged with care and ready for delivery. How many people make up this well-oiled production machine? 25? 50? The correct answer is six. Mike, John, Lara, Corbin, Dennis, and Andrew work together to transform these well-traveled beans into bags of future deliciousness.
There are two other vital steps in the journey from the fertile soil of Panama to your mouth. Cupping, the practice of observing the tastes and aromas of a coffee, is an essential step in the process of getting your coffee to you. Cupping is first and foremost quality control, a way of checking for defects in a crop, making sure we are utilizing the correct roast, and ensuring consistency across the board. Another function is determining a flavor profile. Maritza, our Q-certified quality control guru, along with our roasting staff, prepares the coffee to be cupped. Using her expertise to guide them, they decide whether the roast is perfect and determine what flavor notes each coffee features.
The final step is the one we leave to you, dear reader, unless you prefer to leave it to one of our adept and personable baristas (and we fully endorse this approach for those of you in the Topeka/Lawrence/Kansas City area): brewing. For the most part, the best brewing technique is somewhat subjective. A Chemex might give you intense flavor, but a Kalita Wave will provide you with both flavor and body. Here at PT’s, we love the Kalita Wave and the clean, balanced cup it provides. Leah, our trainer and educator in the realm of all things coffee, recommends the Kalita Wave for pour over.
Breathe in the aroma from your morning cup deeply. Sip slowly. Or gulp—I’m not here to tell you how to drink your coffee. My point is to just enjoy and revel in the fact that you, coffee drinker of superb taste and discerning palate, are the reason each step was taken in this journey of many years and thousands of miles. Your warm mug of Mama Cata Toña coffee is the very last chapter of many, and as such, you play what is quite possibly the most important role of all. You are a dream’s manifestation.
National Coffee Day (US) is September 29th. International Coffee Day is October 1st.