Standing half way up the steep sided valley of the Morgan Estate, looking up through the canopy of ancient trees, a thin Bajareque from the Cloud Mountains hitting my face, I felt I had rarely been any where quite so beautiful. This is Panama coffee at its best, growing in the shade of untouched beauty, a carpet of ground growing flowers and bright coloured leaf litter under foot.
I'd been introduced to Lesley and Jamison Savage by my sister who has a small coffee farm in Boquete and a unique and flourishing honey business with apiaries on some of the top coffee estates. When she had asked “would I like to meet her neighbours?”, I had no idea I would be meeting the much heralded owners of the Finca Deborah, who also farms the hugely popular, high quality Morgan Geisha Estate. Nor as I drank my wine and sat chatting on their terrace, did I realise that in the garden around me was a high tech and well organised coffee nursery and processing plant, but more on that later.
At the end of the evening Jamison said that he would be going up to Deborah and Morgan in the morning if I fancied ‘tagging along’, needless to say I jumped at the chance. I am pretty new to the coffee business and this is my first proper trip to origin but I am sure that tagging along on a normal work day is a little like visiting any business outside of an open day. They may not have cleaned and repainted before your arrival but you get a far better feel of the place and from the start I decided Morgan is special. Its special because of the location and microclimate in its steep sided isolated valley. Its special because of Jamison’s attention to minute detail. Its special because everywhere you look there is a clear a passion to grow the best coffee in Panama and for me is especially special because its owned by an author, Juan David Morgan.
The Morgan Estate is situated at 1700-1780 meters, in a secluded leafy valley with a river running down the middle, waterfalls tipping down the steep sides and rainbows forming everywhere the sun catches the mist. At the bottom by the track a collection of Scandinavian style chalet houses are set amongst immaculate lawns and gardens with paths leading up into the cloud forest behind. Along these paths, planted in the shade of the existing mixed forest, clinging to the sides of the valley are the geisha and wow what a sight. Beautiful glossy leaved healthy bushes dripping with ripe cherries. At the time I visited, in early February the main harvest was just getting started and the pickers were working on the upper slopes. At Morgan like at Deborah cherries are only picked when they are absolutely perfect, only the ones that are picked well are kept, they are only picked up until midday so they can be processed at the optimum time and clean bags are used for every pick. The coffee is predominantly green tip geisha, a few other varietals are grown along with the red tip geisha but trees are tagged and cherries kept in strict lots. The trees are incredibly well looked after and well pruned. Fertilizer is kept to a minimum and very few chemicals are used, consequently the wildlife is amazing. Panama boasts 978 different species of bird most of which are bright blue, red, yellow, green and many could be seen flitting around above us.
Morgan produces both washed and natural Geisha. The day I visited we picked up cherries that were to be natural processed and this is done back in Boquete. Lesley and Jamison have built greenhouses and drying racks where this process can be closely monitored, at the ideal temperature and humidity. Timers are set and the beans turned by hand every 30minutes. Surrounding these greenhouses is the nursery, where 100s of baby geishas are growing. Each plant has been initially selected from preselected graded washed beans, germinated in sterile sand and re-potted into larger than usual pots. At every step the research and attention to detail is inspiring.
I was lucky enough to bring back some 2015 Morgan Geisha, with its amazing floral aroma & notes of lime, vanilla, peach and tropical fruits. If I close my eyes its quite easy to be transported back. We are incredibly excited that we will be working with Lesley and Jamison in the future both importing and roasting exceptional microlots and pushing new research into performance and nutrition.