ABOUT THIS COFFEE
Panama’s Gesha cultivar, originally descended from a landrace collected in the district of Gesha, near Ethiopia’s Keffa Forest, has had a niche marketplace all to itself for over 15 years. Of all the many attempts to cultivate the original Gesha’s genetics across the Americas, many coffee tasters still believe nowhere is it better expressed than where it was first debuted: the Boquete valley in western Panama, under the command of the Barú volcano’s very specific soil and climate. Almost entirely as a result of Gesha’s success, Panama is now an origin that constantly makes headlines in the specialty coffee world, mostly for the astounding auction prices in each year’s Best of Panama cupping competition, which now features dozens of Gesha microlots processed a kaleidoscopic number of ways.
This coffee comes to us from Finca Lerida, a 900-acre estate in the famed Boquete growing region nestled under the ecological wonderland of Volcán Barú where over 550 species of birds make their home. Barú itself is an active stratovolcano that is Panama’s highest peak and the centerpiece of a 35,000 acre national park. In this area, tucked into the Continental Divide, Pacific and Caribbean winds alternate at different times of the year creating cooler temperatures, overlapping rainy periods, and limited dry months. The result is an extremely lush and diverse microclimate where coffee—along with a number of tropical fruits—tends to thrive.
The Lerida Estate has an impressive history and rich heritage. Sometime around 1920, the land was sold by a local farmer to a man named Tollef Bache Monniche. Monniche, a Norwegian, found himself in Panama after immigrating to the United States and accepting work as a lead engineer on the Panama Canal Project. Upon his retirement, he sought a quiet existence, so he and his wife, Julia Huger, moved to the farm in Los Naranjos, a neighborhood just north of the town of Boquete in Chiriquí, Panama.
Once settled, the couple began cultivating fruits and vegetables and eventually developed much of the farm into a coffee plantation. Their first major harvest in 1929 yielded an impressive quality that sold to Germany and sparked a global interest in the region’s coffee. Monniche’s engineering background led to the development of a siphoning device used in processing to separate low density coffee; the invention became popular in the region and replicas can still be found in use today. Among his other impressive hobbies, Monniche’s penchant as a naturalist led to cataloging the snakes and birds of the region, and his collection of wildfowl was acquired by Chicago’s Museum of Natural History.
In 1956, the aging couple returned to the United States and sold the 365 hectare estate to Alfredo and Inga Collins, who in turn sold it to Sonia Amoruso and her husband in 2009. The property includes a vintage hotel with amenities that equal the valley’s natural beauty, and which serves as a landmark to local history and has been a source of income for the estate for generations. The hotel was the primary focus when Sonia’s family first purchased the estate. However Sonia, originally planning to manage hospitality, was quickly captured by the estate’s coffee production and has managed the coffee operations ever since.
Sonia works with 30 year-round employees and another 60 people who meticulously pick ripe cherry during the harvest. Lerida’s central wet mill is as old as the farm itself, and fresh-picked cherry is still sorted from under-ripes and damages using the siphon invented by the original owner in the 1920s. Then the coffee is depulped, fermented, washed, and carefully dried on covered patios and raised bed. Finca Lerida also has housing and a school for employees and their families.
At Modest, we have always been driven by the mission to make great coffee accessible to all. In recognizing that a coffee like this a luxury outside the budgets of many people, we have decided to donate a bag of The Modest to a local food pantry for every unit of this Panama Gesha coffee that we sell.
The art for this tin was created by Laura Lynne Art of Aurora, IL. Laura is a mixed media artist that loves creating collages and murals. Prints of this art can be purchased on Laura’s website. Please follow her on Facebook and Instagram to see her other beautiful works.
Region: Alto Quiel, Boquete, Chiriqui, Panama
Altitude: 1600 – 2000 MASL
Harvest: December – April 2021
Sonia Amoruso / Finca Lerida Coffee Estate
Fully washed after depulping and fermenting, then dried on raised beds
FLAVOR Hibiscus, jasmine, peach, mild citrus
Light – City