Panama is like no other coffee origin. Arguably the most developed country in Central America, Panama's currency is staked to the dollar. This combines US-level costs of production with the typical challenges of working in Latin America, like mixed infrastructure and remote farms. With the international recognition of the pricey Geisha varietal in the Chiriqui province, Panama is now home to the world's most intensely quality-focused producers.
A traditional view of the coffee trade puts poor, disconnected farmers at the mercy of undulating commodity prices. What would the coffee industry be like if producers had as much agency and education as the green buyer? If coffee was truly valued at its real cost, in dollar terms? Panama's rare amalgam posits an answer.
We were welcomed by the family of Jamison Savage, producer of our 2017 Morgan Geisha series. Though Morgan Estate has other ownership, Savage is responsible for all managerial aspects, from the type of fertilizer administered to the ripeness of the cherries picked. In striking contrast to the majority of coffee farms around the world, roasters jockey for the chance to purchase coffee from Morgan Estate and Jamison's own farm, Finca Deborah. It struck me that the control that Jamison keeps over his brand is similar to the way we approach our partnerships at Merit.
Though the Geisha varietal and Savage's experimental processing add to the coffee's monetary value, the currency exchange and the farm's meticulous practices factor into the price tag. Savage's commitment to using no herbicides requires much more labor to cut back plants, but the health of the soil and ecosystem shows in the cup. We envision a coffee industry where every farmer can have the agency to choose what their focus will be and to whom they sell their coffee.