Researcher Diaries: The Unique Taste of the Panamanian Geisha Coffee

31.08.2021 The latest researcher diary features a post from Löic Wüthrich, a BFH-HAFL bachelor’s student in International Agriculture.

The mountain forests of the Panamanian Barú Volcano National Park not only provide a habitat to more than 250 bird species, but also a unique terroir for coffee, which grows here up to 2,000 metres above sea level, in the fincas of the Lamastus Family Estates. The combination of its terroir and taste profile makes Panamanian Geisha coffee, a variety of arabica coffee, one of the most expensive and sought after in the world. The hype around this variety has prompted a massive investment in the renewal of this plantation, with more  than 100,000 seedlings in its nursery.

Just like wine, speciality coffee is distinguished by its flavours, aromas, body, and acidity. But while wine contains about 200 aromatic compounds, coffee has nearly 500! During my field assignment at the Lamastus Family Estates, I learned a lot about coffee quality. This is mainly assessed through a tasting process called “cupping”, which consists of slurping it from a spoon. The coffee is then given a score from 0 to 10 across ten different attributes, for a maximum of 100 points. The whole process is standardised by the cupping protocol provided by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA).

In the speciality coffee sector, quality is everything, and the flavours (as shown in the coffee taster’s flavour wheel) and aromas perceived in the coffee are very important for pricing. I learned a lot about the coffee value chain and the multiple interactions that occur between its actors. My bachelor's thesis consists of a market analysis for the coffee from this plantation, as well as a business analysis. This work will allow Lamastus Family Estates to face the increasing production of their high-end speciality coffee and to sell it on the most promising markets.

The project described in the diary is implemented by Lamastus Family Estates, a private coffee producer in Panama.

Researcher Diaries

The Researcher Diaries series provides photo snapshots and testimonials from researchers and students participating in BFH-HAFL and partner projects in the field all over the world.

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Category: Research