Carmen Estate is a farm we have worked with for many years now. It is located high on the hillside above the large, well known Finca La Florentina. In fact, La Florentina used to buy the coffee cherry from all the surrounding farms to augment their own. La Florentina is down in the flat valley and Carmen Estate is roughly another 500 meters higher up. Carmen is on a very steep hillside with southern exposure, and due to the high altitude, the coffee has greater density, better acidity, a more piquant cup. So in a way, Florentina was getting some better cup quality with Carmen in the mix. But the farm was passed down to the new generation of the Franceschi family, namely Carlos Franceschi Aguilera (Carmen was his grandmother) and he realized that they had a better coffee on their family farm then something to blend with lower-grown coffees. He built an independent micro-mill for the Estate down in the valley using the latest equipment, and began a program to care for the trees using new techniques. This farm uses the de-mucilage process where the mucilage is stripped off the parchment layer using friction, rather than traditional fermentation. I was very impressed with the high altitude and excellent practices of Carlos and Finca Carmen. This coffee has been in the top 10 of the Best of Panama competition too many times to count, from #2 to #5 spot every year in fact. The entire farm is very high altitude; it starts at 1750 meters, an altitude many farms don't even reach, and goes up from there! We have a special arrangement to buy this coffee each year from a particular zone at 1900 meters altitude on the farm, a very small amount of coffee. Altitude matters with coffee, and you can taste the difference here. Altitude allows coffee to ripen slower, creates greater bean density, and results in higher concentrations of bright, snappy, acidity in the cup. I also notice stronger aromatic attributes compared to the lower altitude coffee from the same Estate. This coffee is known for acidity and brightness but this year it cups more like a sweet caramelly coffee, more about the syrupy body than bright, piquant flavors. I was at the competition in Boquete this year as well, and it was the same there when stacked up against all the other Estate coffees (it placed fifth). The dry fragrance has balanced bittersweet notes, brown sugar and shades of cedar. Light roasts have malt and lemon in the wet aroma, but the balanced sweetness comes out at C+ to FC roast, with caramel-laced chocolate cookie character. There's a touch of orange peel on the break, but the cup is all about sweet chocolate and caramel in context with dense mouthfeel. There are still accents of clean cedar wood, malt, a zest of orange peel, and a trace of warming spices in the finish. Note: This is actually quite stunning as an SO espresso as well!