While the current high-tech iteration of Mama Cata Estate was established in 1997 by Sr. Garrido, this farm's rich history has been hugely influential in the rise of specialty coffee in Panama.
Sr. Garrido explains the colorful history of the farm's namesake:
“We can say without doubt that Mama Cata Estate has been in the coffee business for a long while. Mr. Monic used to own Elida, Lerida, and Mama Cata in a larger farm. Mama Cata Estate had its own currency, called Texas, long before Panama was a country.
Later it was owned by Mr. Fisher. When his wife died, he married his maid Catalina. Jamaican. Sweet. Cooked for all her workers. She used to have a gun and shoot at a neighbor on a daily basis. Of course the lady neighbor would shoot back at her. You can still hear the workers that were kids in those days talking about the Tea Time Shooting…”
During those early days, the Fishers brought Geisha seeds to the farm and began growing the cultivar in small lots, but remained focused mainly on the traditional Typica varietal. For many years, the Washed Typica from Mama Cata performed highly in the Best of Panama (BOP) competition, winning the category three times. Today, it remains one of the most consistently high-ranked BOP contenders and took 4th Place in 2016.
In the early 2000’s, when the Geisha varietal was “discovered” by the specialty coffee industry, the Garrido family looked once again to their own small Geisha lot. For the purposes of the BOP, the lot was too small to produce the amount required for competition. In 2005 they created a blend from their Geisha lot and Typica from two other lots. It finished second to the winning coffee from La Esmeralda Estate. The quality of this blend has been adapted and improved over the years along with the modernization and innovation of the rest of the estate.
From Bird Rock Owner Jeff Taylor:
“Unlike many traditional farms, Mama Cata’s lots are defined using GPS coordinates. Through extrapolating and interpreting the data derived from this technology the family acquires information about the varietal, soil composition, health and production of each coffee tree. This enables them to respond effectively to variables that might inhibit the quality of their coffees.
One of the most important factors in harvesting coffee is determining the optimal ripeness for picking. José David is very careful to educate his pickers on the ideal ripeness and when to pick cherry from the tree, leaving the cherries not yet ready for harvest.
Using the estate’s GPS-based data technology system, José David is able to determine which lots are ready to be picked and which lots are not. This is a very important step in harvesting the best quality coffee. The GPS system also allows Mama Cata Estate to continue to follow each coffee lot separately as it is hand sorted, depulped, dried, and processed. In addition, the patio drying is done according to weather patterns which are monitored by high-tech weather stations located at the benificio, or wet mill.
The reliable production of extremely high-quality coffees has resulted in the Estate being featured in the Best of Panama competition and receiving a top-five placement for Geisha and traditional coffees.”
In 2016, Jeff was a judge at the Best of Panama competition and scored the Mama Cata Geisha at over 90 points. It was the second highest score in the Geisha category and it certainly caught his attention. We are proud and delighted to make José David a Direct Trade Partner and hope to continue this relationship for years to come.