Partners in Delivering Consistently High Quality
As ardent coffee lovers running a coffee business, we are careful to strike a balance between two key things — (1) what most of our clients and consumers currently understand and want with (2) what we strongly feel they deserve, which are the finest coffees — based on what we have learned and tasted throughout all our time as passionate coffee professionals.
Some of those higher-end specialty coffees we have been sourcing for the past years and have found consistently impressive are from Janson Coffee, produced by the Janson family.
Janson Coffee Producer's Talk
Kai and Jannette Janson visited us at our Sharjah roastery last January 10 for our Panama Producer's Talk. They shared their family and farms' history and gave us insight into the efforts to elevate the already high quality of their coffees.
Part of their ethos is that "Coffee is a people thing." This motivates them to keep building close and lasting relationships across the industry. They are also active in uplifting the living conditions of the workers at their farms.
Janson Coffee was founded by brothers Michael, Carl, Ricardo, and Peter Janson in the 1990s, inspired by their father's dedication to hard work, quality, and love for their land. Their father was Carl Axel Janson, a Swedish immigrant, who acquired the property in 1941 and established a cattle farm with his wife, Peggy.
With their 30+ year history, the Jansons have relied on the experience of their founders while remaining attentive to every step and fine-tuning their processes, from cultivation to processing. They have been awarded multiple times at the Best of Panama (BOP) and are represented by Jannette in the SCA Panama's (SCAP) Board of Directors.
Home is Where the Coffee Grows
Kai had been based in the United States in the mid-2000s and working in coffee when he returned to their homestead in Panama to support his father, Carl, in conducting the family business. Jannette, meanwhile, grew up in Volcan but had been engaged in a corporate career abroad when she heeded the call to come back home in the late 2010s and follow in her father, Michael's footsteps.
Kai considers their generation as "keepers of the land" that his grandfather, father, and uncles have toiled to enrich and safeguard for future generations of Jansons. The family grows Geisha, Caturra, Catuai, and Pacamara varieties across their two farms. They also maintain a nursery of high-grade Arabica seeds selected for their seedbeds.
One farm, Hacienda las Lagunas, at 1,350 to 1,400 masl and west of the Baru Volcano, had been named after the lagoons in its premises — known to be Panama's highest alpine lakes — and is also the site of wetlands and natural springs. The other, Los Alpes, higher at 1,600 to 1,700 masl and situated on the slopes of the Tizingal Volcano in the Talamanca Mountain Range, is in the vicinity of the Baru Volcano and the natural reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site, La Amistad International Park.
Kai and Jannette, along with Jannette's son, Miguel, ensure harmony between the farm's operations and the natural environment, which also serves as vital habitat for a diversity of birds and other wildlife. Primarily, they maintain the balance of nutrients in the soil by preserving the endemic flora in their farms, which act as natural barriers and remove the need for pesticides or herbicides. Their family also has a reforestation program, which entails the collection of native tree seeds from their forests and raising them in their nursery.
A testament to the remarkable biodiversity and beauty of the Jansons' farms is their inclusion as an agro-tourism destination in Panama's Coffee Circuit, along with Lamastus Family Estates — also featured in our last Producer's Talk.
A Legacy of Coffee and Compassion
The Jansons are earnest in sustaining the farming families they work with. They listen to their needs and address these most responsively. Apart from making living accommodations available, they partnered with their local health ministry to give permanent and contingent workers access to proper medical care.
During the pandemic, additional facilities were built to house pickers requiring quarantine during the harvest season and the nurse that tended to them. This initiative allowed the workers to receive the appropriate medical attention and enabled harvesting to continue amid the peak of Covid.
Sensitive to the constraints on working parents with small children, the Janson family has been running a daycare center, named after their matriarch Mrs. Peggy Janson, within the estate grounds. Knowing their children are in a safe place while they are on the field encourages productivity and gives peace of mind to the farm workers. Beyond that, the children are able to play, learn, and socialize, which helps prepare them for school and benefits their overall well-being.
On Saturdays for the rest of the year, there is a dedicated teacher that school-going children can approach for help with their lessons. The same teacher also supports literacy building in adults who did not have the opportunity to access formal schooling but are motivated to learn.
Cupping: Janson Family Coffee Panama Geisha
Granted, the Panama Geisha is in a class all its own. But for Jannette, what truly makes Panama coffee special is that it keeps families together and their family traditions intact.
She mused, "In that cup of coffee, it's all our years of work… 30 years my family has been in coffee…" Further, their proudest moment as a coffee-producing family is when the consumer enjoys their cup of Janson Family Coffee.
As usual in our Producer's Talks, we cupped our featured partner's coffees. This time, we had the newly released Janson Coffee lots from Los Alpes —
Panama Geisha Lot 792 Natural, 72 Hours Fermentation has tasting notes of apricot, papaya, white grapes, and peach.
Panama Geisha Lot 801 Natural, 72 Hours Fermentation has tasting notes of nectarine, jasmine, sweet orange, and strawberry.
Panama Geisha Lot 893 Natural, 96 Hours Fermentation has tasting notes of lychee, yellow peach, blueberry, and strawberry candy.
One way the Jansons innovate to realize the full flavor potential of their coffees is by frequently taking a granular look at each step of their processes and introducing practical tweaks where possible. For example, instead of conveying the hand-collected ripe cherries to the beneficio in sacks, they switched to using plastic crates to preserve more of the cherries' juices and sugars beneficial to flavor development.
They have also been exploring the use of yeast from their coffee cherries in fermentation and a new drying method that involves a dark room and custom-built dehydrators, creating a drying environment with lower temperatures than older methods.
Raising the Energy Around Coffee
When Kai shared his thoughts on how he sees specialty coffee evolving, we gained insight into the impetus for the innovations at Janson Coffee that result in the fascinating flavor profiles in our cup. What he said also lightly touched on the consumer's role in shaping the future of specialty coffee.
He told us, "It's an amazing ride — to see coffee grow and the energy around coffee… Our intention is, how do you create a coffee that is so fruity that you know it's a natural, and so powerful you know it's anaerobic, and so clean and gorgeous that it's like a classic washed — all in one cup, and at different points in the cup…if you're paying attention, you'll see that." He also mentioned that brewing plays a large part in upholding quality.
When we asked what's on the horizon for Janson Coffee, Kai shared that their goal is to keep raising the energy around coffee. We took this to mean: continuing to chase excellence in coffee quality and keeping everyone excited about it by creating genuine relationships and fun shared experiences with the coffee people they encounter.
A happy coincidence — the day of our Producer's Talk happened to be Kai's birthday. As the group sang him "Happy Birthday," we were treated to more of what we will always recognize as Kai's quintessential, larger-than-life, jolly character. If there had to be an ambassador for raising the energy around coffee, it would have to be him.