Origin Update: 2021 Harvest Update India Ratnagiri and Introducing Panama Finca Sophia
Words by 49th Green Coffee Buyer, David Pohl
February is harvest time in Panama and India, and to celebrate we have offerings from both origins on our menu. Finca Sophia is our newest relationship in Panama and has an especially close connection to the 49th family which I’ll tell you more about in a minute. Ratnagiri Estate is a long term 49th partner that has impressed us with a continued investment quality, as well as its embrace of innovative processing methods resulting uniquely Indian coffees.
India Ratnagiri Estates
Panama Finca Sophia
A world away in India our long term partners at the Ratnagiri Estate are in the middle of the 2021 harvest. Similar to the weather conditions in Panama, India was struck by devastating rain that dumped 125 mm in four hours, months after the typical monsoon season had ended, and right before the harvest was due to begin. Evidently India had not seen rain like this in 182 years and was caught off guard. This resulted in massive losses of ripe coffee cherries, which from the pictures I have seen burst or fell from the trees before they could be picked. Once the skin of a coffee cherry splits or touches the ground, quality can be compromised in a matter of hours.
Does that mean 2021 is a disaster? Not necessarily, and in fact probably not. Ashok Patri, manager of the Ratnagiri Estate, while honest about the extent of the damage caused by rain, was cautiously optimistic about the harvest, having just invested in a new dry mill, bringing all processing inhouse – growing, wet milling, dry milling - for the first time since the farm was founded in 1927. This is significant and we hope this level of control will actually help Ratnagiri produce even better quality coffees this year.
In addition to this, Ratnagiri has been one of our most innovative partners in the past three years, diving head first into the world of processed coffees. In a country better known for “Monsooned Malabar,” let’s just say that Ratnagiri is on the cutting edge of coffee processing in India offering an array of expressive, uniquely Indian natural, honey and extended fermentation microlots, two of which we are on our menu currently.
Despite the challenges of the 2021 harvest, we are excited to see our partners at Ratnagiri Estate plowing a head with determination, and expect to see some incredible offer samples in the coming month or two.
I am happy to announce that we are offering for the first time ever, and as the exclusive roaster in Canada, coffee from the award-winning farm Finca Sophia, in Panama. For those of you who are not familiar with Finca Sophia, it made headlines earlier this year when its 1st place winning Best of Panama Washed Geisha sold for a record $1300.50 per pound at the annual auction, while the 2nd place winning Natural lot went for a still remarkable $350.50. We didn’t participate in the auction, but we did manage to secure a special lot from Finca Sophia just for 49th. How did we do this? Let’s just say we have someone on the inside!
The truth is that I have been involved with Finca Sophia since day one in 2008, helping to build it from the ground up, along with partners from Equator Coffees and Boot Coffee in California. Finca Sophia has been an ongoing labor of love, a long-term project spanning 12 years now. I travel to Panama four times each year (excluding 2020 in which I only managed two trips) to check on production, quality and distribution, and lived on the farm for a summer with my family. Finca Sophia is a magical, experimental farm that was founded to push the boundaries of coffee production, with the aim to produce world class coffees.
We have had many challenges along the way – to be expected from the highest (or at least one of the highest) coffee farms in Central America and growing arguably the most finicky coffee varietal Geisha - but in the past few years we have hit our stride, producing a limited supply of unique Geisha and Catuai nano-lot coffees. This is in no small part due to the incredible stewardship of Finca Sophia by Kelly Hartmann, our farm manager, and his team, who day in and day out make the magic happen.
I somewhat sheepishly shared samples with my colleagues, but after their glowing review we decided it would be exciting to offer Finca Sophia at 49th Parallel, making it the first and only roaster to have this coffee in Canada. I left it to my co-workers to choose the lot that they would like to offer - a beautiful Natural process Geisha from an area of the farm called Piedra. Similar in profile to the 2nd place BOP Lot, Panama Finca Sophia is bursting with bergamot, jasmine and passion fruit, while still maintaining poise in the cup.
While Panama in general has been harvesting coffee since November, Finca Sophia is just starting to pick coffee cherries because of the altitude of the farm which ranges from 1825-2175 meters. The cooler temperatures at this altitude means the coffee cherries develop more slowly than coffees at 1500 meters for instance, and are picked an average of three months later. We will provide another update on the harvest and the Panamanian coffees we are excited about for 2021 after we have cupped samples later in the spring. In the meantime we hope you enjoy the Finca Sophia lot from the epic 2020 harvest.