Coffee ambassador of Southern Florida, Andrew Giambarba, sent me a big box of coffee from his neck of the woods (I’m SO grateful!) and today’s review is possible because of Andrew and his generosity! I knew precious little about Panther Coffee until I started doing my research for my review and what I found really surprised me. Visit the links and read on!
Current offerings from Panther Coffee (unfortunately today’s coffee appears to have sold out)
PANTHER COFFEE KENYA THUTI
As I researched Panther Coffee for this article I just kept finding links and more links and stories in the paper and in social media and on the news and etc etc etc! It became very clear to me that Panther Coffee is an important part of the Miami, Florida specialty coffee scene. Heck, plenty of people even credit Panther with creating that scene in the first place! I’m going to follow my own advice today and not bury the lead, so let’s take a look at the coffee first and then we’ll see what makes Panther so special! You can teach an old dog new tricks! LOL
Today’s coffee comes from the famed Nyeri region of Kenya. Most coffee growers have small plots of land and so, as is typical in much of Africa, the farmers pool their coffee with others who are members of their cooperative and then the coffees are processed at a washing station that the co-op owns. This selection comes from the Othaya Cooperative Society, founded in 1956 with an estimated 15,000 smallholders in its membership! This particular coffee was grown near the village of Gatugi and was wet processed (washed) at the Thuti mill. Growing altitude is 1800masl and this is a mix of SL-28 and SL-34 coffee varieties, the ones most associated with the classic Kenyan flavor profile.
I used my standard 1:16 pourover ratio of 28g of coffee to 450g of water in a notNeutral Gino pourover with Kalita 185 filters for my samples. From beginning to end I found this coffee to be about as “classic” of a Kenyan coffee as possible! There was a slightly tomatoey aroma in from the brew bed with some other savory elements. The cup greeted me with a complex, yet inviting flavor profile. The prototypical citric, grapefruit pith-like acidity was right up front and carried through to the aftertaste, which was long and lingered with citrus and a vaguely coconut flavor for me (I’m not sure this IS coconut… this particular flavor comes through in a lot of African coffees for me and I’ve really been able to isolate it and give it a good description, but for some reason it strikes me as coconutty, so maybe it is coconut. My mind is confused).
There is a little bit of savoriness to this cup and that’s where that “tomato” descriptor comes from… a bit of acidity and a bit of savory and you have a recipe for tomato! This isn’t a tomato bomb like some Kenyan coffees can be, but it’s in there a bit nonetheless. There is a fruity, orange juice sweetness and juiciness underlying the brightness of this cup that also gives the mouthfeel some weight. These types of flavors really tend to “drill” into my tastebuds and carry a lot of weight in and of themselves, giving the coffee a sense of structure that goes beyond the mouthfeel and body of the coffee itself. In warmer drinking temperatures there was a bit of sharpness to the acidity, which I like, but as it cooled it mellowed out a little and was a little less tart and piquant. Overall, this is about as classic of a Kenyan coffee as you can get, in my opinion. It has everything I love about Kenyan coffees and it checked every box! Unfortunately, it’s sold out, so stay on the lookout for more Kenyans from Panther since they obviously know how to handle coffees from this region!
… And now, some more about Panther Coffee, the company!
Panther Coffee was started by Joel and Leticia Pollock in Miami in 2010. They started winning awards and gaining recognition almost immediately after opening their store (although it’s rumored that they started out as a bicycle cart serving cold brew at food truck roundups 1). Of course, coffee in Miami, to most people, conjures up images of little cafecito and cafe Cubano shops on every corner. The intensely sugared, small coffee drinks (which I love) are at the heart of Cuban-American culinary culture and so Miami is ground zero for that style of coffee.
Panther have won Good Food Awards, have had baristas place well in competitions, and they’re obviously deeply at the heart of Miami and southern Florida’s specialty coffee culture. Joel and Leticia didn’t come to Miami without a plan. They were living in Portland for a time before the big move to Miami. Joel was a roaster at Stumptown and Leticia, who is originally from Brazil, was working for Ristretto as a trainer. Those are pretty good CV’s for people in the specialty coffee world and their roots seem to have garnered Panther Coffee a huge and well-deserved following both for their coffee as well as their locations and service. That’s what it’s all about, folks!