Review: Heart Coffee Roasters Panama Geisha Hacienda la Esmeralda (Portland, Oregon)

This is a coffee I was absolutely salivating to try as soon as I saw an email alert that it was available! The first Geisha coffee I ever reviewed for this blog was from Square One Coffee Roasters, and it was their Panama La Esmeralda Boquete. It was my top-ranked coffee of 2015 for its complexity and delicious vibrant flavors. I was astounded by how much I liked it in a French press, and the Esmeralda Boquete was even the “second-tier” classification of beans from the Hacienda La Esmeralda farm, meaning they were beans that didn’t quite meet the classification for being the top quality first-tier, which are exceptionally expensive. I felt like the Boquete beans, at $20/12 oz, was a real bargain, but I have always been curious about if the top-tier beans from this farm would be worth the $100/lb. price. Heart was selling 8 oz bags for $49.50 and while yes, that is a crazy amount to spend on such a small quantity of coffee, I needed to know (and I’ve spent more for less)!

Since I favored the French press method for the Square One La Esmeralda Gesha, I had a feeling I would also favor the French press for this bag from Heart, but I went back and noted my favorite brewing methods of all the Gesha/Geisha coffees I’ve had, in the name of science. I left out the Trader Joe’s Colombia Geisha from this list because of the stale, disappointing nature of the whole can.

Square One La Esmeralda Gesha: French press
Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Panama Geisha La Milagrosa: French press
James Coffee Company Ethiopia Geisha: Chemex
Klatch Coffee Panama Altieri Washed Geisha: AeroPress
La Colombe Panama Ironman VI Geisha: French press
Blue Bottle California Organics Gesha Blend: French press

Summary: It’s worth trying different methods for your Geishas, and I will continue to do so, but if you don’t want to “waste” Geisha beans (I put “waste” in quotes because it’s unlikely you’ll get a bad cup with any of these brewing methods, really), the French press is most likely to give you a terrific cup.

Onto the Heart Hacienda La Esmeralda!

Whole bean: I did smell these beans whole and ground but I was apparently in such a hurry to brew and taste the coffee, I never wrote down notes. Oops. I do remember the beans had a delicate scent but didn’t really smell like they ended up tasting. Sorry for the vagueness!

French press: I loved this. I LOVED this. Smooth, balanced, complex, AND layered. Virtuosic. Symphonic. Slightly creamy in texture, sweet but not overwhelming in any one particular flavor. This is a coffee to savor and sip, for sure. Unlike some coffees that punch you in the face with bright, intense flavors, this coffee creeps slowly into your consciousness. This isn’t Richard Strauss or Bruckner, this is Debussy’s La mer.

Chemex: This method brought out some slightly sour/tart notes. Orange juice on the front, and it morphs to jasmine tea as it cools. Lovely but not as attractive to me as the french press cup.

AeroPress: Bit intense and bright… I drank this as a concentrate and while I could have added a little additional water, I was terrified of making the coffee bland, which would have felt like a sin at this price tag.

V60: Very sweet cup. Perhaps a bit watered-down in flavor compared to the French press cup, even at a 4:10 extraction, but it was still enjoyable. Smelled like honey and tea.

At the end of my tasting, I made another French press cup and I wasn’t imagining it, the French press cup was definitely the exceptional standout here. Wowza.

Summary: If you get the chance to try these top-tier beans from the Hacienda La Esmeralda farm in Panama, make them in a French press. I personally wouldn’t waste my time or beans brewing them any other way, now that I know how stupendously good they are in this method. Were these beans worth $50 for 8 oz? I certainly couldn’t spend this sort of money on a regular basis on coffee, but I am quite glad to have tried them. I do think there’s a point of diminishing returns regarding price point… Coffee that is $20/12 oz is generally MUCH better to my palate vs. coffee that is $10/12 oz, but coffee that is $50/8 oz is only a bit better than the coffee that is $20/12 oz. I DID like these beans better than the cheaper Square One La Esmeralda Gesha, but not enough to justify spending the higher amount regularly. The Heart Hacienda La Esmeralda is a splurge coffee for sure, and it’s for this reason I’m unlikely to rank it in my Best Of 2018 list this year – it’s unfair to pit it against all the “normal” priced coffees. But make no mistake about it, if you love coffee, this is a farm you need to try if you have the chance.

From the roaster: orange, vanilla, honey, jasmine

This coffee is no longer available on Heart’s website, but here’s a link to their online store: Heart Coffee Roasters Shop

Review conducted 6-8 days post-roast.

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