11 Mar 2017


Panamanian coffee is one of the most expensive varieties in today’s specialty coffee market. Ushi Zimermann is the founder of Panama Varietals, pioneers of sourcing special lots of Panamanian coffee and distributing them to coffee and buyers.

Panama Varietals use an IKAWA Sample Roaster to assist them in finding and selecting unique, high quality coffees.

In this post, Ushi explains a little more about Panama Varietals’ mission and the role her IKAWA Sample Roaster plays in her everyday life.

The landscape of Panama Source: Panama Varietals


“I founded Panama Varietals when I got asked by a friend, who owns a coffee farm in Panama, to sell his coffee in Europe. As I started opening the market, which meant finding buyers for his coffee, I found there to be a lot of demand for high-end Panama coffee among the specialty coffee roasters in Europe. On the other side, there was a lot of demand by the Panamanian farmers to find buyers for their high-end coffee.”

Tending to coffee plants    Source: Panama Varietals

“The production in Panama is moving more and more in the direction of producing smaller and smaller specialized lots of coffee, which are hard to sell via the traditional network of commercial or even big specialty coffee importers.

This type of production meets the demand of the growing network of specialty coffee roasters looking for special lots no one else can get.

At Panama Varietals we are focused on sourcing those special lots for our clients.”

Uschi roasting coffee samples with the IKAWA Sample Roaster     Source: Uschi Zimmermann

“We started sample roasting with a Gene roaster and soon realized that it had great limitations. We were about to move forward with a 1kg roaster when we heard about the IKAWA. Since then it has become our most valuable “employee”.

There is really no alternative to the IKAWA – it works great for us because we go through a lot of samples, and now we can compare them very well as we have a tool that offers consistency in roasting.

Roasting coffees with the same profile enables us to control the coffee’s quality over time in our storage – once we set a profile for each coffee we can then roast this profile again and again during the year, assuring that the coffee maintains its quality.

The sharing and repeatability of roast is useful when working with customers too – I have several customers that already use the IKAWA and have shared our sample roast profiles with them for the coffees they bought or sampled.

Given the high value and small quantities of the coffee I work with, the roast capacity of 50g is great since it is enough to sample and we can go through a lot of samples that way.

One other thing I like about the IKAWA is its size – at it allows me to travel with it. I take it to trade shows where I can then roast fresh samples, I can also take it to the producers so we can roast and cup their coffee together.”

Source: Panama Varietals

“For 2017 we are focussing even more on a variety of microlots, each of them special in its own way (because of processing, altitude, finca terroir, etc.), to provide our customers what they come to us for – unique high quality microlots from Panama, that you cannot find anywhere else.”

Uschi doesn’t have one standard roast profile, but develops different ones for specific microlots, based on varietal and processing method. 

She has been kind enough to share the following profiles with us, which you can also find in our online Roast Library. 

Many thanks to Uschi from Panama Varietal for sharing her story and her experience with the IKAWA.

If you happen to have samples of Panamanian coffee, make sure to check out the Roast Library where we have uploaded Uschi’s most used roast profiles.

author-img By Alex Georgiou