The two baristas at Seven Seeds are in a slight – not panic – but there’s definitely action.
“Nine orders for pourovers,” one says. He’s weighing ground coffee into numerous small brown jars. The other is rinsing the filter papers in some V60 cones. The ground coffee goes into the filters, and customers at the bar raise their smartphone cameras as the water begins to pour …
The coffee is Suarez geisha from Boquete in Panama’s Vulcan region, which Seven Seeds paid a relatively modest $US24.10 a pound for in the June 2015 Best of Panama auction.
They’re selling it for $8 a cup. That’s nothing compared to the $150 for a 100-gram jar that Campos charged for their Ironman geisha in 2013 (which worked out to nearly $20 a cup brewed at home), or the $30 a cup that Proud Mary asked for a geisha-like Colombian known as HR61 the same year.
(A cup of coffee can cost $30, but can it be worth $30? Enough people seemed to think so, if only to say they had drunk a $30 cup of coffee. The HR61 had a circular logic of its own.)
Panama geisha became a cult in 2004 when one lot from La Esmeralda sold for $US21 a pound, which was a record then. By 2010 it was going for $US170 a pound, and geisha variety coffee from other Panama producers was in demand. In this year’s auction the top Esmeralda lot sold for $US140.10 a pound.
Code Black Coffee, Dukes Coffee Roasters, Campos Coffee and Proud Mary all bought geisha in the June auction, with Campos paying $64.50 a pound for one lot, so stand by for spring geisha fever in Sydney and Melbourne.
Seven Seeds serve their pourovers in a simple white mug. There’s no wooden board, no serving vessel, no stemless wine glass to swirl it around in. There’s nothing to tell you this isn’t just another cup of batch brew. (Though if you want to buy it online you need to order in advance of the weekly roast at $35 for 250 grams.)
An $8 coffee concentrates the mind: you don’t want to miss a drop. Drinking it becomes an exercise in mindfulness: taste, aroma and mouthfeel are the themes of this meditation…
The aroma is floral, although it comes on as it cools rather than exploding out of the cup; the flavours are clean and juicy, with an elusive stone fruit sweetness. It’s coffee-like, rather than tea-like (if you want tea-like, drink tea…), and it’s more subtle and complex than lots of local filter brews. It’s the best $8 cup of coffee I’ve had.
But will it blow anyone’s mind? Probably not … unless you take a video home as well.