I go to Panama every year and I spend a week with Ratibor Hartmann. During this week, we taste a lot of Geishas together. I mean a lot – washed, natural, anaerobic, cold fermentations, carbonic macerations, pretty much the whole gamut. This process, which he calls “honey” is a pretty cool innovation that Ratibor and his son, Ratibor Junior, have pretty much perfected.
Before I dive into the processing method, let me tell you a bit about Ratibor and his farm. I don’t know what I can say about Ratibor that does him justice. He’s a fountain of coffee knowledge, he’s kind, humble and has a passion for coffee like none other. I met Ratibor in 2010 and we have been close friends ever since. Like his four siblings, Ratibor started from very humble beginnings. Their grandfather settled on the land where Finca Hartmann now stands in the 1920s as an immigrant from Czechoslovakia. Ratibor’s father, also named Ratibor, then expanded the farm up the hill into the mountains through the 1970’s. In the early 2000’s, Ratibor senior handed the farm down to the five children and they have been working together ever since. When I first started buying coffee from the Hartmann’s, their coffee was very good, but not considered the upper tier of Panama coffee. Their farms were all located at lower elevations, the varieties they grew were more “regular” and they were just starting to experiment with processing methods.
Since that time, Ratibor has become a very close friend of mine and we talk coffee weekly. Every time I see him, I learn about a major change or improvement to the farm. Some of these changes are at the agricultural level – varieties, farm management, new land, new plantings; while others are at the processing level – modified processing methods, new drying processes, and dark rooms.
This coffee is from one of these changes. In 2015, Ratibor and Tessie decided to launch their own project, separate from Finca Hartmann, so they purchased land in the region of Pozos. They called this farm “Mi Finquita”, which means My Little Farm. This region has been growing under the radar for the past few years, Ratibor describes it as the perfect place for coffee – clearly many agree with him. This region is the fastest growing coffee region in Panama and was first proven to be amazing by farms such as Ninety Plus Gesha Estates and Finca Deborah.
Ratibor and Tessie planted Caturra, Bourbon, SL-28, Geisha and Typica at Mi Finquita and the farm began producing in 2020 and the coffee is amazing. This coffee is a Geisha from Mi Finquita and to put it into perspective, their Geisha, which they have called “Golden Beetle” and “Afrodita” won third place in the 2021 Best of Panama competition, then 4th in 2022 and 2023. The coffee is clearly special!
Now back to the “honey” process…
The coffee was anaerobically fermented for 36 hours in plastic bags. Then it was de-pulped and put into plastic tanks where it was submerged in honey during its fermentation. The idea behind honey is that, as coffee ferments, sugars are consumed and the honey acts as an agent for additional sugar required by the fermentation and helps preserve more sugars in the coffee. The coffee was then partially washed and dried on raised beds.
So, back to my cupping with Ratibor. This coffee stood out right away. The fragrance was fruity and floral and very pleasant, but the coffee didn’t start to really shine until it was brewed. The coffee is lightly perfumed, intense in flavours, juicy, tropical and with a super lingering aftertaste. I tasted the coffee several times and both Ratibor and I were so moved by the coffee and inspired by how complex coffee can be.
I am so proud to be able to have this coffee be our inaugural coffee packaged in our new tins.