One Seed At A Time
Cultivation practices are the foundation to a quality cup of coffee. Everything begins with a good seed. Seeds are carefully selected during a given harvest, collected only from the top producing cultivars in order to promote good genetic resistance to disease and also to find better tasting trees.
After this seeds are grown into small trees and planted during the rainy season in order to ensure the plants root system has the opportunity to establish itself before the dry season. From this point it will take four to five years before the first harvest.
The varietals used at Damarli Estate are a mix of dwarf cultivars (caturra, catuai), traditional cultivars (typica, bourbon), hybrids (pacamara, marsellessa) and African Heirlooms (geisha, sl28). Each of these varities require different spacing, nutrition and shade needs. Each variety is planted and managed in separate plots.
The estate uses a mix of trees both native, commonly used for shade, and non-native trees, for wind control and nitrogen fixation. Several of the native trees are primary growth giving the estate a unique biodiversity that is not commonly found in Central American coffee plantations. The shade is used for several reasons. Shade trees increase the natural habitat creating higher biodiversity in the estate eliminating the need for pesticides or insecticides as there is a balanced ecosystem. Additional benefits include cooler temperatures increasing cup quality, less weed control needed, and reduced need for fertilizers as the natural organic material is higher and sun exposure is less on the coffee trees.
In order to get good fruit and consistent production over the life of the plantation good pruning methods must be used. On Damarli Estate trees are grown on two and no more than three stems in order to ensure the tree is healthy and strong. The trees are capped once they reach about five to six feet tall in order to promote strong branch growth, to manage the tree for foliar applications and to facilitate harvest heights. Renovation pruning, pruned back to a knee high stump, is done once the tree begins to form umbrella like tendencies and is no longer productive.
Harvest & Processing Practices
Harvest begins usually in late November or in the beginning of December and continues until mid March. Migrant coffee workers travel to Boquete in order to work the harvest during these months. Many are the extended family members of the permanent employees of the estates. How the coffee cherry is harvested is one of main contributing factors to the end quality of the product.
At Damarli Estate each individual coffee berry is picked by hand. The coffees must be ripe and a "solo rojo" slogan is adapted among the workers. Coffees are harvested by varietal and plot each day to create a day lot. Each day of harvest coffees are harvested, sorted by hand for color and floated to remove non-dense beans. At this point the processing and dry method must be selected.
There are four major categories of processing: Washed, Natural, Honey and Anaerobic Fermentation. Each processing method showcases different attributes of the coffee in the final cup.
At Damarli Estate the main methods used are Natural and Anaerobic Fermentation.
For the Natural process, the coffee seed is dried with the surrounding cherry. This gives the final taste a sensation of fruit and sweetness while retaining the chocolaty and subtle notes of the coffee.
For the Anaerobic Fermentation process, the coffee is fermented with a selected yeast in a vat for between four to seven days. The yeast releases certain esters that influence the final taste of the coffee. Once the four to seven days is over, the coffee is then dried. The final taste of these coffees gives a more exotic and tropical profile to the coffees.
Drying like harvest and processing also influences the final taste and cup profile. There are several ways to dry coffee, however the major goal is to dry consistently and down to a moisture content below eleven percent.
At Damarli Estate coffees are dried first on raised beds to get good air movement and to keep the coffee away from contact with dirt and dust. Coffees are moved consistently in order to get uniform drying. On large day lots once the coffee reaches about fifteen to eighteen percent moisture content, the coffee will be moved to the rotary drier to free up space on the drying beds and to ensure consistent drying down to nine and a half percent moisture content.
Once the coffees are dried they are stored for a period known as resting. Coffees need to rest in order to develop their best taste as young coffee has commonly a taste referred to as "freshness" that only exhibits the acidity and greener attributes of the coffee.
At Damarli Estate coffees are stored in air temperature controlled storage for about two to three months before the coffee is cupped for quality and prepared for dry milling.
Cupping & Dry Milling Practices
Before the final dry milling and preparation of coffee either for roasting or export, day lots are cupped in order to evaluate the quality. At Damarli Estate each day lot is cupped in order to evaluate the processing, drying and overall harvest. Day lots that taste similar are put together to form larger lots and day lots that do not reach our quality standards are separated. Similarly day lots that are outstanding may be selected for competition or simply kept separate and presented to top customers.
Once this cupping evaluation has been finished, the coffees are taken to the dry mill. Coffees are peeled, sorted by size, sorted by density and sorted by color. This ensures that only the top quality is exported and roasted. The coffees are then bagged in grainPro or are vacuum packed in boxes to await roasting or export in the temperature controlled storage at Damarli Estate.
For further details on any of these practices, please contact Keith Pech at firstname.lastname@example.org.