US $130 a pound. Green. Wowsers.

La Esmeralda has done it again… not only winning the Best of Panama competition four years in a row, but thrashing the competition in a bidding war that drove its price to dizzying heights, topping all other competition lots by a factor of 10. If you’ll recall, this coffee is the entirely unique and stunning Gesha cultivar that was discovered on the Esmeralda farm just a few years ago.

Congrats to the winning group… an alliance of 49th Parallel Roasters, Coffee Klatch Roasting, Groundwork Coffee Company, Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, The Roasterie, Willoughby’s ( and Zoka Coffee Roasters.
Red Coffee Cup

While last year’s auction lot was intensely fragrant, sweet, superbly balanced and so very distinctive it was almost entirely unlike any other cup I’d ever experienced (and for that matter, so distinctive as to be almost unlike coffee as I know it) I haven’t, myself, had the privilege of sampling this year’s lot. In strict terms of cup quality, this year’s cup didn’t score as well as it did last year… nor did most of the field, I think. (And yes, while quality is certainly subjective, on the whole competition judges’ palates are pretty fairly calibrated.) Which suggests that this price has much to do with the prestige and exclusivity of the club of roasters who will offer it.

Is that a problem? Well, maybe… in that this one lot so completely eclipses some of the other exceptional lots that also graced the cupping tables. At the same time, it also makes one wonder: just what might any other farm be able to do with the time, attention and resources that Hacienda la Esmeralda has been able to dote on the Gesha? The mind boggles.

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