Upholding and Elevating Quality
We have been chasing top quality since we started. Because of that, we have pursued and are continuing to nurture relationships with our meticulously selected producing partners, including our good friends from Panama.
Last year, we had the privilege of featuring Jamison Savage of Finca Deborah, Iris Estate, and Savage Coffees at our second Producer's Talk. Fresh into this new year, we had the great honor of featuring three Best of Panama (BOP) multi-awardees, who are also key figures in the SCA Panama (SCAP) — Lamastus Family Estates, Janson Coffee, and Abu Coffee.
As members of the SCAP Board of Directors and winners of the BOP, they are at the forefront of upholding and raising the quality and value of Panamanian specialty coffee through continuous innovation.
Lamastus Family Estates Producer's Talk
When Wilford Sr. and Wilford Jr. visited our roastery in Sharjah last January 10, they spoke to us about their family's coffee legacy and the necessary elements that allow them to keep it going strong — the peerless Panamanian terroir and a company culture of persistent innovation and strict discipline.
Lamastus Family Estates is a coffee company founded in 1918 by Robert Lamastus. They have evolved with the times under the leadership of Robert's son Thatcher, grandson Wilford Sr., and great-grandson Wilford Jr. and have accrued the most BOP awards to date.
2022 saw them win Producer of the Year, an elite accolade for achieving the highest accumulated score across the different BOP categories. It was a banner achievement following the family's two peat victories in 2018 and 2019, just before a hiatus at the height of the 2020/21 pandemic. Then, toward the end of 2022, they made the news when one of their Geisha lots fetched a record-breaking price at a private auction.
Innovation and Discipline
The Lamastus Family Estates have become most known for their drying techniques showing off the best quality of their coffees. Their innovation is enabled by the discipline, expertise, and infrastructure they continue to build upon through the years, coupled with the brilliance and vigor of the joint leadership of father and son Wilford Sr. and Wilford Jr.
Recognizing that they have been blessed with the ideal terroir, they profoundly believe that their coffees are a gift from mother nature. Respectful of that, they veer away from inoculating the cherries during fermentation. Instead, they favor innovation through intricate refinements in the steps and variables of drying, supported by a strict protocol at every stage. Wilford Jr. humbly disclosed that the Anaerobic Slow Dry (ASD) technique their family is usually credited for is actually a traditional method Wilford Sr. optimizes and for which he coined this name.
He proudly shared that their family's innovation extends well beyond post-harvest processing. They have also been executing pioneering ideas around:
- Consumers' specialty coffee experience through his brainchild, Sisu Coffee Studio.
- Cultivation through the development of their new and fourth farm, Sendero, which Wilford Sr. emphasized as having a differentiated microclimate from Elida, El Burro, and Luito, and being in an area where no one is growing coffee yet.
- And Marketing, with their private auctions now going into the third year.
The value of discipline is central to the company's culture and permeates all of its operations, from cultivation to cupping with customers when they visit origin. According to Wilford Jr., this is the only way to achieve their family's goal of exceptional quality every year.
SCAP and BOP Pioneer
Beaming, Wilford Jr. added that his father's most impactful achievements, which pre-date everything they are better known for today, have benefited the industry at large. First was Wilford Sr.'s initiative and involvement in establishing SCAP in the 1990s to salvage the Panamanian coffee industry, which had then been in crisis resulting in a majority of their peers turning away from coffee and prioritizing other crops.
The establishment of SCAP gave way to the organization of the BOP, which eventually led to the rediscovery of the Panama Geisha. Wilford Jr. recounted that his father, together with a small circle of coffee farmer friends, just knew they were doing something good by preserving their coffee traditions, but not how big it was going to be.
First Exporter of Panamanian Naturals
Second was Wilford Sr.'s tenacity to advance natural processing as an innovative approach to create flavor profiles, and not merely an inferior option to the washed process. This led to Wilford Sr. being the first to export natural-processed Panamanian coffee that was well-received internationally, at a time when the prevailing perception was that washed coffees were far superior and that naturals were rife with defects.
Like our other producing partners and friends from Panama, the evidence of the Lamastus Family Estates' considerable contribution to their national coffee industry is the increasing value of the Panama Geisha and the worldwide renown of Panama as a luxury coffee origin country. As for our global specialty coffee community, we are motivated by their success stories, which heighten our enjoyment of the magnificent cups of Panama Geisha, especially the lots in our Competition Series.
Cupping: Lamastus Family Estates' Panama Geisha
Wilford Jr. gave an overview of their four farms — Elida, El Burro, Luito, and Sendero. Meanwhile, Wilford Sr. talked about the essential factors that contribute to the coffee-growing areas' discrete microclimates, which together with variety, are primarily responsible for the intricacies and flavor potential of their coffees.
These factors are: the country's location between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the nutrient-rich volcanic soil from the Baru Volcano, and the pristine environment of the Baru Volcano National Park nestling their coffee farms. And the coffees’ potential is developed into distinctive cup profiles through post-harvest processing, and eventually expressed in our cups through roasting and brewing.
The Lamastus Family Estates coffees we cupped are from El Burro Estate and Elida Estate.
El Burro Estate Geisha ASD has tasting notes of dark raisins, purple grapes, dark plum, and hibiscus.
Elida Estate Geisha ASD has tasting notes of jasmine, honey, mangosteen, and orange candy.
Elida Estate Geisha Washed has tasting notes of lavender, coffee flowers, apricot, and bergamot.
Cementing our understanding of terroir as the determining factor for the finer nuances of a Panama Geisha's flavors, Wilford Sr. explained that the same varieties grown at their different farms, even at the same elevation and made to undergo the same process, will always give a different cup profile because the specificities of their respective microclimates, e.g., humidity, beneficial microbes, are different. With an air of reverence for terroir and variety, Wilford Jr. further shared that their motto is "Geisha flavor first."
Elida in a Pop Culture Cameo
Elida Estate is the original and flagship farm, the company's headquarters, where their family spends most of their time, and where Wilford Sr. would be found working every day. It was named as a tribute to the Lamastus family matriarch, Elida, who single-handedly raised her children and took charge of all farm operations after her husband Robert passed away in the early 1930s. It would take almost two decades before any of her children would be able to assist.
Nearing the end of their presentation, Wilford Jr. showed us a clip from the favorably reviewed, long-running international TV series Billions where Elida Geisha Washed, being poured from a Chemex, makes an appearance.
As part of their Producer's Talk, it was a strong branding message signaling how a Lamastus Family Estates product has gained recognition as an icon not only of quality but of international luxury. But, it was also just a tender, human moment in which Elida's great-grandson was excited to let us know that now, more people in the world — outside of coffee and outside of Panama — have heard his great-grandmother's name and of her legacy.
Written by: Nadine Onate | Photos by: Pauline Disuanco, David Disuanco, Lamastus Family Estates