Can I get a "what what" for Hacienda la Esmeralda?!

Yesterday morning, thanks to the seriously incredible generosity of the coffee-buying team back at Counter Culture HQ, an enthusiastic handful of coffee folks got to completely geek out about Hacienda la Esmeralda (a.k.a. some of the world's most expensive—and extraordinary—coffees).

7 samples in all

In case you're not familiar with Esmeralda Special and the fervor it inspires among beanheads, here is the 101: The Peterson family bought a coffee farm in Boquete, Panama, in 1996. In 2002, the family discovered that the most exceptional coffees their farm produced were Geisha variety that grew in a higher-altitude microclimate that existed within their crop. The intensely special, low-yield beans culled from this section of the Petersons' farm perform incredibly (and undeniably uniquely) in the cup and have fetched remarkable prices in auction: $21 dollars/lb green in 2004, $50.25/lb in 2006 and an astounding $130/lb in 2007.

This year's auction took place today, and the coffee world waits with bated breath for news of who gets which lot and when we can expect it in our mugs. That curiosity piqued for us at 10am on West 26th Street in Manhattan yesterday, when a dozen local coffee people got an opportunity to cup seven samples from the Petersons' farm in advance of the auction, one from each Special lot that headed up to the block this morning.

Breaking the samples

Of the seven lots, which you can read about in more detail here, my personal favorites were the sweet-and-sour Mario Carnaval—the name comes from the fact that it was harvested in February, Panama's Carnaval month—which had notes of sweet orange candy, rosewater, hibiscus tea and violets; and Naranjo, which (true to its name) had an unmistakable orange characteristic along with deep florals, fruit and vanilla. Esmeralda Special is often noted for its strong jasmine quality, which was most up front in the Colgá lot from Cañas Verdes, as well as fresh corn and fennel.

Esmeralda sample cupping

I hope the auction was a success for everyone involved and that these beautiful coffees find their way onto taste buds all over the world pretty soon—there was not a single bummer among them, for sure!

Thanks again to team Counter Culture for sharing the wealth! What a righteously awesome gift to the coffee community that was.