29 Jul 2019


At IKAWA we talk a lot about our mission to improve coffee from farm to cup, and with Best of Panama we had a great opportunity to experience just this with some of the finest and most talked about coffee in the world. Below, we outline how we supported the Best of Panama competition, held workshops at origin, supplied Official Sample Roast Profiles for BoP auction lots, and wrapped it up with an open cupping at IKAWA HQ.

This year saw the 23rd annual Best of Panama competition, showcasing the greatest coffees the nation has to offer. IKAWA visited Panama in May to support the event, cup some incredible coffees, and prepared some official sample roast profiles for the auction samples. To round things off, we hosted a cupping of some of the top lots at our headquarters in London with friends from London’s coffee community.

The annual coffee competition is organised by the Speciality Coffee Association of Panama (SCAP) in which producers across the nation submit their best coffees for a period of intense judging to score and ultimately assess for each category, the best coffees of Panama.

Over four days, international judges cup and evaluate each lot to ultimately decide which will be auctioned off. The auction is unique in the prices the coffees command. For the second year in a row, Elida Estates produced another impressive natural geisha, this time scoring a record breaking 95.25 and achieving $1029/lb this year at auction.

Coffee from these auctions will find its way to some of the highest end coffee shops across Asia and North America (either green or roasted!) including award winning Saza Coffee. Last year some were roasted for consumers on IKAWA roasters as a roast-and-serve concept.

During this year’s SCAP we ran a couple of hands-on workshops. This provided IKAWA with a fantastic opportunity to further our understanding of how our Sample Roaster is used at farm level, and also support customers on the ground with getting the most out of their Sample Roaster. The sessions were facilitated by Tony Ruiz who’s based in our London office, but was born and raised in Panama’s coffee growing region.

The first of these workshops welcomed SCAP members, existing IKAWA users from Panama and around the world, discussing how integral the sample evaluation is at every level of the coffee supply chain. It was a fantastic opportunity for Tony to provide more in-depth insights for delegates at the event, particularly focussing on IKAWA best practise and roast profile creation and adjustment. It was also a great opportunity to hear customers’ feedback, and gain a better understanding of how producers and exporters are currently utilising our Sample Roaster.

During this time Tony also took the opportunity to make local site visits in the wider coffee producing community.  He attended a number of farms and QC labs, offering a fantastic opportunity to connect with IKAWA customers and learn how we can better serve them.

After the competition, ahead of the auction, bidders requested sample sets for the BOP coffees  containing 100g of each of the lots that made it to the final round.

We were lucky to have a sneak preview of the set, and spent some time finding the best IKAWA roast profiles for the different coffees. As time was limited, we did what a lot of IKAWA customers tend to do – and went to some of our favourites profiles we’ve used before and tried them with the new coffees. Then commenced the process of cup, adjust, roast and cup again and found a handful of roast profiles that were excellent for the BoP sample lots. 

For anyone who’s not used an IKAWA before, the digital aspect allows sharing of roast profiles which are sent to your roaster by bluetooth, and allow you to roast consistently every time. What’s so exciting about the Best of Panama sample sets is that they are being roasted all over the world, so IKAWA users were able to tap into our recommended roast profiles and get a tried and tested sample roast really easily. When you only have 100g of some of the most valuable coffee in the world, roasting on IKAWA allows you to try 2 different roast profiles, to get a complete picture of the coffee, or to arrange several cuppings, by roasting the coffee in 50g batches on different days.

Here are our two favourites we used for the cupping at IKAWA HQ, most notably Alexandru Niculae’s profile we used to roast all of natural and special process coffees including the ‘winning’ Elida Estate Green Tip Natural:



Find our full range of recommended roast profiles here

Now the auction has concluded we’re looking forward to understanding how the successful bidders will continue to roast, cup and evaluate before releasing their interpretations to the consumer market. If you received sample boxes, or better still sourced coffee from the auction, we’d love to hear which profiles you used and how your IKAWA supported your purchase. Please email us here.

After the auction, we were left with BoP samples. Sharing is caring, so we decided it was only fair for us to invite some of our coffee friends over for a blind cupping  of the most talked about coffees throughout judging, and the star lots from auction. 

Paul Ross cupping at IKAWA in London

It was great to be joined by friends familiar with IKAWA and Panamanian coffees – including UK Barista Champion Paul Ross and UK Brewers Cup Champ Josh Tarlo from Kiss the Hippo, not to mention patrons from Vagabond, Caravan, Square Mile, Allpress, Cafedirect and a very big thank you to Anette for coordinating the perfect pour!

Of course, the opportunity to cup ‘the most expensive coffee in the world’ is a headline, and there were some other fantastic coffee on the table. Particularly of note was the fantastically complex Janson KJF 25 — a top secret ‘natural style’ process from the pioneering Janson Family — it split judges, Q graders, international coffee icons, bidders and us here at IKAWA HQ! 

 Whilst we appreciate the economics of Panamanian Geisha is truly exceptional, it is still very powerful for us to be involved in roasting at origin, sharing profiles around the world, and also, bringing that back to our own office and community in London! 

We’ll be looking to build on this experience, and apply some learnings to work with other origins in coming months. Helping producers achieve a greater slice of the value chain, whilst improving quality through access to great sample evaluation means a lot to us. Watch. This. Space.

We’re also curious to know more about different sample evaluation processes and ways to dial in your roast profiles to new coffees – and it’s a topic we’ll return to time and again!

author-img By Rosie Annabelle Mills-Smith