I’ve got to admit—I don’t find a huge amount of time in my day-to-day to attend cuppings. Working full-time in a busy café and writing and taking photos the rest of the time, there’s not a whole bunch of space for the ol’ slurp and spit. That said, when a cupping table full of coffees fresh from Panama arises, it’s rather hard to turn down. Consequently, I found myself headed towards the 5 Senses Australian Barista Academy in West Melbourne on a balmy Thursday afternoon, dreaming of Panama’s infamously delicious coffees (Geishas galore!) and all that was in store.
Aptly titled ‘Los Dulces’ of Panama (‘The Sweets’ of Panama), the cupping was presented by our partners at 5 Senses Coffee and hosted by their green buyer, Jacob Ibarra, showcasing a range of coffees recently purchased from Panama. Since it was founded in 1999, 5 Senses has built up a large portfolio of wholesale clients throughout Australia, and in recent years they’ve created a new distinction of coffees with their ‘Backroom’ program—a place where unique and limited release micro-lots find their home.
This particular cupping was held at the spacious, light-filled Melbourne Barista Academy, alongside synchronized Panama cuppings at their Perth HQ and also The Wedge Espresso in Sydney—allowing the rare opportunity of an identical selection of coffees to be enjoyed by three separate parties simultaneously.
On the table it was clear just how vast the range of flavours and textures are that you can find in one region—from a beautifully balanced Finca Lerida honey process Catuai variety, to a blueberry pie-like naturally-processed Typica variety from Kotowa Estate, and even a curveball of an intensely savoury and herbaceous Maragogype variety from Hartmann Estate.
At the end of the table was a bit of a refresher: a cascara infusion made from the Geisha cherries processed through the Kotowa mill. This is a cascara that’s processed and treated as respectfully as any coffee would be—in this case the coffee cherry husks are dried on patios and measured carefully until they reach the ideal moisture content.
The cuppers at the Melbourne event were an eclectic mix, from seasoned professionals all the way to those who had never cupped coffee before. It’s always a fascinating thing to see how such a range of people perceive the same coffees, especially those sourced from a fascinating region like Panama—home to all sorts of sweet, savoury, and fruity treats.
Eileen P. Kenny is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in Melbourne. Read more Eileen P. Kenny on Sprudge.