Brian Beyke

Onyx Coffee Lab - Panama Los Lajones Lot 1

Brian Beyke

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Who says that good looks can’t get you very far?  Onyx Coffee Lab knows all about looking sleek.   From their sexy logo and their trendy fonts all the way to their Grateful Dead inspired psychedelic Sugar Skull emblem that I want tattooed on my calf- Onyx certainly know a thing or two about branding.   However, we’re here to talk about their coffees, specifically a few from their new Roaster’s Sample Box.  

As you’ve probably seen, I love trying new coffees and new roasters but I don’t always love the “unknown” of certain coffees and just going by tasting notes.   That’s why Craft Coffee and Mistobox have been so good for me… but what about when you want to get a feel for ONE roaster and all they offer?  Onyx just this week released these Roaster’s Sample Boxes, four seasonal 4oz bags of coffee that are their current favorites.  They lovingly sent a box this direction so I wanted to peel back a bit about the box and the coffees I was sent, starting with Los Lajones Lot 1 from Panama.  

First off, tons of detail is included in the box.  It arrives with their beautifully branded logo on the front, and as you open it up you have dividers spacing out your four bags of coffees with more aesthetics lining the underneath of the box.  On the inside of the lid it reads “Never Settle for Good Enough” as you glance at the pops of color from the bag labels and get a peek at their clean display of technical details (wash process, elevation, varietal, tasting notes, and a scale from traditional to modern.)  One of the bags (Misty Valley) I’ve previously written about as it was included in February’s Mistobox, so we’ll continue with the Panama.  

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Los Lajones Organic Estate is located on the slopes of Volcan Baru in the elevation of 1750 – 2400 masl. The total size of the farm is 160 ha, with about 40 ha dedicated to farming. Currently, 35 ha are cultivated with coffee trees, 21 ha are used for production and 14 ha is devoted to young trees between 2-3 years old (mainly Geisha and Pacamara variety). The other varieties used on Los Lajones are Caturra and Catuai.

Before the farm was purchased by Graciano Cruz R. and his son in 1992, it was owned for many years by Alberto Rubio and used mainly for cattle pasture. In the first years after purchase, the lower parts of the property were slowly planted with coffee trees. Recently, the focus shifted to the upper parts, with Geisha variety being planted as high as 2100 masl.

The unique geological characteristics of the property, which is located in-between two lava flows, created a completely different and specific microclimate.

The rainy period is clearly defined, starting in May and lasting up to December. From January until April, the farm is constantly hit by wind currents coming from the Pacific Ocean, which collide with Bajareque (misty rain) arriving each afternoon from the Caribbean. This unique microclimate makes Los Lajones a perfectly dry spot for 5 months during the crop. The average annual rainfall is around 3500 mm of water, distributed into mild showers that take place predominantly from April until August. The rainiest months are usually September and October, averaging 1000 mm per month.

Classified as a highland cloud forest, more than 2/3 of the property consists of primary forest with a high variety of oaks (Quercus ssp.). Moreover, the farm is divided according to the elevation into three different biodiversity zones.

Los Lajones was the first organic certified coffee farm in Panama. All the farm operations are carried out with environmental consciousness and deep desire to preserve the unique and exotic biodiversity of the whole area.

To develop a “Biodiversity farm inventory”, we collaborated with INBio (Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica), which spent several days on-site, monitoring butterflies, macro mushrooms, birds and botanical inventory inside the coffee farm and within the transition zones with Volcán Barú Natural Reserve.

In the next two years, new varities such as Geisha and Pacamara will start producing its first cherries. With the elevation of 2150 masl, Los Lajones is probably the highest altitude Geisha plantation on the continent. One of the crucial aspects of Los Lajones is the zero water usage during coffee processing. All production is processed on-site using Honey and Natural methods and dried on raised African beds.

Details:

Roaster: Onyx Coffee Lab

Origin: Boquete, Panama

Farm: Los Loajones

Process: Honey Processed

Varieties: Caturra, Yellow Catuai

Elevation: 1,900m

 

Brew Method:

Woodneck | 30g © to 476g (w) | 4:20 total time | 204 degrees (preferred method) | 1.38 TDS | 20.22% Ext.

Dry aroma woodsy and sweet, fruity like a natural processed Ethiopia - berries.

Soft tastes of strawberry, banana, yogurt-like creaminess -  floral notes with soft whipped chocolate finishings.  Everything is really silky, really clean.  Sweet kisses of honey seem to exist in the finish too.  Floral notes of honeysuckle and hibiscus exist, but a lot softer than in some other coffees.   

In the clarity when cooling I notice a little bit of grape jolly rancher sweetness arrive, almost with a squeeze of lime juice too.  The body seems to congeal a bit and get slightly more syrupy, but it still sits on the lighter end of that.  There is a sparkling acidity characteristic that is quite fun, and the fruit flavors now presenting them self more similarly to fruit punch.  A complexity of tangy fruits grow more noticeable as it cools too: raspberry, passion fruit, lemon, lime, orange, kiwi, black cherry.  

It actually starts to change quite rapidly as the body becomes more viscous and sweet and filling the whole mouth with tons of flavors to try and decipher finally ending with sugar daddy sweetness in the finish.  Still though the long finish leaves your mouth with an overly pleasing flavor of vanilla creaminess, like just eating a marshmallow (not toasted).  Slight grassy notes exist in the finish as it cools, but it only aids to the full picture of drinking fruit punch a beautiful spring day, honeysuckle and other flowers blossoming around you while you lay in a park and watch the clouds pass by.

Soft intro, fruit punch, luscious.

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Brew Method:

Gino Dripper | 36g © to 552g (w) | 3:50 total time | 200 degrees| 1.36 TDS | 19.16% Ext.

Nice and fruity like a natural process - fruity pebbles sweetness with a tingly acidity.  Strawberry and banana most noticeable, with cream filled silky rose-like sweeps around the mouth, falling into slight hints of chocolate in the finish, but they are pretty light right now.

Some grassy and cherry brightness starts to cut through the cup more as it opens up, along with notes those fruit punch notes I mentioned before.  Tangy fruits of lime, lemon, raspberry and orange with honey sweetness also present after a slightly dry and tart finish.   

It really starts to juice up as it cools with some creaminess too.  Presentation is like the punch you’d have at a party - lemon-lime sparkling with creamy sorbet-esque fruit notes sweetening the way.  Overall, similar to the Woodneck preparation but maybe a little less articulated.

Sweet honey, floral notes, cherry, and grape all push forward as the cup cools further.

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Brew Method:

Iced Bonmac | 28g © to 280g (w) | 140g ice | 3:00 total time | 198 degrees (preferred method)

Really awesome.

It really tastes of Sprite at first with this crisp lemon-lime acidity, but I can easily find grape, dried strawberry, raspberry, orange, date, currant, floral swirls, and honey.  That lemon-lime quality is present through the entire sip, both beginning and ending each you take with brightness.  Again, it’s really refreshing and probably balances the fruit notes found in the cup better than the previous methods I’ve had it on.  It’s still very silky, despite the cold presentation, and leaves syrupy trails on the tongue.  

After a few minutes of drinking I’m finding those soft chocolate mousse notes too, but the acidity seems a tiny bit more prickly with blackberry notes hitting the highs and toffee, vanilla-cream and honey finishing the cup.  

This is a really interesting iced coffee, because where I’d normally expect more sweetness to grow as it cools, this actually grows a little more structured, and deeper into those chocolate notes, a little more tart/sweet berry, and a still noticeable but less intense brightness.  I wouldn’t call it the most refreshing iced coffee, but honestly I would call it the most unique iced coffee - sophisticated, if you will.

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This was quite an intense and interesting cup of coffee.  I didn’t really think about it at first when looking at the bag, but it makes sense that it was a honey-processed Panama.  My experience with honey-processed offerings has either been deeply complex and enjoyable, or leaning more to the natural-process lopsidedness of fruit forward.  This offering seemed to straddle that line, with both moments of complexity and moments of intensity.  I’d say the hot methods that I tried with my limited sample leaned a little more on the lopsided end of things, but the iced coffee was incredibly complex, incredibly surprising, and down right out of this world.  One of my favorite iced coffees I’ve made.  Onyx Coffee Lab - continuing to impress me.

 

Co-host of the I Brew My Own Coffee Podcast and always has all the chocolate. I also love to play board games. Yea, let's go do that right now.