This January, I met with him during my visit to Boquete. Seeing his latest developments while touring his farms one morning was, as usual, educational and thought provoking. We talked through many aspects of processing including variety separations, climate conditioning of finished coffee, humidified drying vs. heat drying of parchment, and leaf rust (something everyone is talking about). It became clear that Ricardo is dedicated to innovation and to pressing his farm and its processes as far as he can into continued excellence.
As cherry was being processed, we spent part of the evening discussing his Penagos equipment and his interest in finding ways to use even less water and to continue to improve demucilaging. Ricardo doesn’t rest on his laurels, as is evident in his 2012 harvest. He introduced organic farming techniques, such as adding sawdust to his waste water and pulp to ensure that no waste water from pulping is leached into nearby streams. This provides added benefits to the compost material that he uses along with used cherry husks.
We spoke about his unique technique to regulate humidity and condition parchment before it is milled for export. This level of climate control is something that I have only witnessed in Bolivia and Panama. The idea is to store the parchment in a room with stable relative humidity and temperature which slows down aging. Curing the coffee gradually will reduce the shock to coffee and diminish the chances of the integrity of the bean becoming compromised. Ricardo built this small, insulated room with temperature control for conditioning about five years ago. He added humidity control two years ago, and we’ve concluded that stable relative humidity is as important as stable temperature. Next year, Ricardo is considering lowering the temperature near (but still above) freezing. It is his belief (and mine as well) that this conditioning is what contributes to Duncan’s stability and duration while other coffees begin to show fade.