I’ve been following Equator Coffees & Teas for a long time and I finally reached out to them recently to get some coffee samples to review and share with you. When I spoke with them they said, “We’ll send you one of our white label coffees, too” and I didn’t realize what that meant until I looked at the website more closely and saw that Equator’s white label series currently includes their Gesha, a special high-end coffee from Rusty’s Hawaiian and what I’m reviewing today, an auction lot from El Injerto.
To put things into perspective, the pricing on these white label coffees runs $40 for an 8 ounce bag of the Rusty’s (which, looking at the website, sounds amazing, too!), $70 for the Gesha (for 8 ounces) and $50 for the El Injerto! This is, by a magnitude, the most expensive coffee I’ve ever drunk. Once I got over the shock of how generous the folks at Equator were being, I also “worried” (real tough thing to have to worry about, I know) about that expense. I usually stick to my policy of not looking up coffees until after I’ve reviewed them so I don’t skew my expectations, but for whatever reason I didn’t in this case.
The “worry” was twofold: would I give this coffee a better review because it costs so much, or on the other side of the coin would I have unreasonable expectations for an expensive coffee. I.e. “this better taste three times better than the last Guatemalan coffee I drank, or else!” When I reviewed beer the common phrase was, “You can taste the rare” and it explained why the rarest, hardest to buy beers were always the highest rated on BeerAdvocate and RateBeer, even if they weren’t all that exceptional. A beer that costs $50/bottle because it’s impossible to buy and only 5 cases were made is different from a beer than costs $50/bottle because of exceptional ingredients and brewing standards and etc.
Enough worry, let’s see this coffee! The coffee I’m reviewing today is Equator’s El Injerto Pandora Del Carmen Auction Lot and it’s part of their white label series and can be purchased directly from Equator for $28/4oz or $50/8oz (or $170 for two pounds, if you’re very thirsty!). This coffee comes from Guatemala and grows in the altitude range of 1615-1837masl (meters above sea level). It’s a washed coffee that is 100% Pacamara varietal.
To explain the coffee’s name a bit more, this coffee is grown on the famous Finca El Injerto farm in the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala. The farm is subdivided into fourteen sections, and this coffee is all Pacamara grown in the Pandora Del Carmen plot of land. Because of their excellent reputation (you have to read the list to understand… it’s really long and their Pacamara won the 2015 Cup of Excellence, again, for the country of Guatemala), El Injerto is able to hold auctions for their own coffees and these coffees always result in a hefty price tag for the buyers who want to offer them to customers. This is a rare, special, award-winning coffee and it’s price reflects that. It would be insane to ex[ect that you can buy this coffee, expertly roasted, for $13/pound!
When you consider the long list of awards that El Injerto has earned, along with the fact that many of their Cup of Excellence awards have been for their Pacamara, it’s no wonder that it demands the price it does. When you drink this coffee you are drinking what experts consider is the best coffee of the year from Guatemala and possibly the best of its variety in the world!
The Pacamara varietal is a huge coffee bean that is a hybrid developed in the late 1950’s from Maragogype and Pacas parents. The first time I ever found a stray Pacamara in a bag of coffee I thought it was a Hulk-like mutant and it’s still a novelty to handle these enormous coffee beans! Because of their huge size and density, Pacamara tends to be hard to roast and easy to mishandle, 1 so not only has Equator gone to great expense to procure this coffee, but they also have ultimate faith in their roasters to be able to bring out its best qualities, which is no easy feat!
I prepared this coffee as a 1:15 notNeutral Gino pourover (same idea as a Kalita Wave) as well as an AeroPress. The Gino is definitely the way to go for this one. The aroma from this coffee is super sweet with hints of just-browning roasted marshmallows and molasses. The mouthfeel ranged from the light side of medium to a more robust medium. My first cup was tea-like in its body, but subsequent cups were a bit more hardy. This is a complex and structured coffee with lots of sweetness and fruit up front and then some spicy notes mid-sip and a very floral finish. The overall fruit tone is sort of apricot for me, more like those dried apricots you can buy in the bulk foods section of the market. The fruit on the finish and long, lingering aftertaste is darker and I can’t disagree with the “plum” that Equator mentions on their tasting notes. Overall this is a bright coffee and for me the acidity leans toward sweet citrus, sort of like orange juice.
In my tasting notebook I wrote, “Easily the best Guatemalan I’ve ever had” and it was afterward that I went to El Injerto’s website and saw the awards they’ve won for their coffees, especially the Pacamaras, and it made a lot of sense! Guatemalan coffees almost always have this harshness in the finish and aftertaste for me that is hard to describe but always there and it always turns me off from an otherwise tasty coffee. This one doesn’t have any of that in the flavor and that’s what easily separates it from all the other Guats I’ve tasted. I’m honored to have tasted what is Guatemala’s highest awarded coffee. While this coffee demands a high price, think about how much money a country’s best wine or sitting at the table of its best restaurant would cost, and it certainly puts things into perspective. You probably won’t (and wouldn’t be able to even if you wanted to) make this your daily drinker on-the-go cup of coffee, but it’s a beautiful coffee and a treat to drink and I think Equator did a wonderful job in roasting it.