There are few legacies that loom larger over the specialty industry than the Lamastus Family. Year by year all the coffee news outlets report the record-breaking coffees that Wilford Lamastus Sr. and Wilford Lamastus Jr. produce. High up in the mountains of Boquete, Panama at the foot of the Baru Volcano, Lamastus Family Estates comprises two farms, Elida Estate and El Burro. Robert Lamastus first planted coffee here on Elida Estate in 1918, and since the family has established the legendary quality that this land can produce.
We had the pleasure of visiting Elida Estate in early 2019 and we were greeted by Wilford Lamastus Sr. as he showed us around their mill and lab complete with a stunning view of the mountains. Elida is host to a unique microclimate due to its high elevation and an incredible array of biodiversity. Cold nights combined with fog produce a long maturation rate of the plants, extending the ripening season sometimes up to a month. While they grow many varieties on each farm, the Lamastus family is world-famous for their Gesha variety. Much like other farms in the Boquete region, the Lamastus family were early adopters of this legendary variety. Since the early ’90s, Wilford Lamastus Sr. promoted this variety and pushed specialty coffee forward not only in Panama but the world. Lamastus was integral in establishing the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama, which unites producers and farmers alike. Over two decades he built upon the hard work of his family and elevated coffee from Panama into what it is today. Their coffee regularly scores above 90 points due to their expert processing and the terroir of the Elida Estate. In 2019 they won the Best of Panama auction and smashed the record for most expensive coffee ever sold at $1,029 per pound, catapulting them into world news and onto several covers of magazines. Wilford Lamastus Jr. said this about their win - “Since the days my father started pushing with his few colleagues the creation of the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama to 29 years later achieving the records and making Panama Geisha a global brand. Today, Elida won as the best coffee, but in reality, is about Panama because in the long run, people will remember the origin and variety and not individual producers.”
WASHED PROCESSED COFFEES
The washed process begins with coffee cherries delivered to the washing station, both from the primary market or from farmers bringing their coffee directly to the mill. The cherries are inspected, and an initial quick round of hand-sorting separates the defective coffees before placing them into the hopper. They are then funneled to the depulper, which removes the fruit from the seeds (beans). After that phase is done, the coffee is fermented underwater for approximately 12-36 hours. During this fermentation, a microbial de-mucilagation takes place, which allows the outer fruit and pectin layer to break down, making the coffee easier to dry. This phase also crucially alters the organic acids within the coffee, as sugars and organic acids are transformed, with the best washed coffees maintaining their complex fruit esters. Once the fermentation is complete, the parchment is emptied into the washing channels, where it is agitated with rakes to remove the last of the fruit layer. During this step, the water is refreshed to ensure its capability of separating the fruit layer from the seed. Once the washing is complete, the coffee is taken to the raised drying tables for sun drying.