Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone is spending time with their loved ones today and gets a long, shopping-free weekend for the holiday (here in the USA at least!). I’m still playing catch-up on posting reviews, so here’s another one from southern Florida, courtesy of super-fan Andy Giambarba, from Panther Coffee. This one is sold out, unfortunately, but read on and you’ll see why!
PANTHER COFFEE EL SALVADOR FINCA HIMALAYA
When the subject of non-Cuban specialty coffee comes up regarding southern Florida and especially Miami, the name Panther Coffee will get mentioned. Credited with bringing specialty coffee to Miami in 2011, Panther has made a national reputation for themselves by selecting great coffee and roasting it masterfully. Founders Joel and Leticia Pollack have deep coffee roots going back to Stumptown and Ristretto, respectively, in Portland before saying “no more!” to PDX’s weather and heading for Miami.
Today’s selection is a “relationship coffee” in more ways than one. They noticed a man coming into their shop everyday for about a week that they had never seen before. At the end of the week, he introduced himself as Mauricio Salaverria, owner of Finca Humalaya in El Salvador. He was on vacation in Miami and serendipity worked her weird magic! Joel and Leticia were scheduled to take a coffee buying trip to El Salvador the following month, already, and they ended up buying 80 bags (the 60kg/132lbs size!) of coffee from him!
Finca Himalaya sits around 1500masl in the Ataco region of El Salvador. The farm has been in the family since 1875 and Mauricio won three awards in the Cup of Excellence in 2015, one for a coffee from Finca Himalaya. This particular selection is Bourbon and Pacamara that have been “honey” processed, meaning the cherry skins are removed but some amount of pulp is left on the seeds (coffee “beans”) when they are laid out to slowly dry. This tends to amp up the fruitiness and sweetness of coffees while retaining more of the cleaner notes of a washed coffee. Panther gave us flavor notes of, “Tootsie Roll, plum, green apple, sweet lemon, caramel sweetness.”
Panther Coffee was the roaster “in residence” for the month of November at La Marzocco’s cafe in the KEXP radio headquarters in Seattle (talk about mixing two of my favorite things!) and FInca Himalaya was one of the coffees they featured all month. This coffee was also featured on Mistobox, and was one of the stories the couple told on episode 35 of Unpacking Coffee (video at the bottom of the page) so it’s no wonder it is sold out!
I was having trouble pulling much beyond “sweet” and a hint of lemon from the aroma on this cup, so let’s just jump right into the flavors. I would call this a medium-heavy bodied coffee but it feels even more substantial on the palate because the acidity in the cup really seemed to drill into my tastebuds, creating a huge presence particularly on my tongue. Unlike a lot of Central American coffees, the acidity is a big player in the overall flavor profile of this coffee and it’s doing a lot more than just adding balance and interest to the cup. I was getting mostly a lemon candy vibe from the acidity and it was aggressive, but not sour or unpleasant in any way. I got hints of raisin in some sips and an apple juice note along with an undercurrent of caramel in the sweetness of this coffee. All these flavors were dense but structured and not muddy in the least. I was really taken by how bright this coffee was, almost more along the lines of a bright Colombian coffee, but with a bit more weight on the palate. Pretty unusual, from my experience, but so tasty!
I was only able to have two coffees from the venerable Panther Coffee, but it’s easy for me, based on this small sample size even, to see why Panther holds such a big place in the Miami, and US, coffee scene. You can’t talk about Miami’s specialty coffee scene without Panther Coffee coming up in the conversation and it’s because their coffee is damn good!