Pete Seeger, an American folk singer and songwriter who died this week, said that “the key to the future of the world, is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.” If this is true, then one of those key holes is specialty coffee flavored, and is known all over Miami and soon to be the world, if barista Camila Ramos has anything to say about it. Jackie and I were lucky enough to sit down with her on Monday to talk about her win at the Big Eastern US Coffee Championships a week ago, the myriad 3 a.m. coffee tastings that paved her way, and most importantly the farmer whose vision gave spirit to a mountain.
If it happens to be a perfect Miami day, as it was this past Monday, then Panther Coffee in Wynwood is a living, breathing social phenomenon. Serving most often as hipster-central, on a weekday at 3:30 under the breezy shade of its bicycle-wheel blooming tree at the center of their newly perfected outside seating, one can find a mingling of suits from downtown, tourists in the know, shoppers and passersby trickling down from Midtown or the Design District, and the specialty coffee drinking elite. Inside there is a feeling of growth, an energy breathing new life into an already magic city. And then Camila walks in. A whirlwind makes her way through the store front, “I’m so sorry I’m late,” she calls through hugs and kisses, then she’s off and our anticipation peaks as we wonder what we are about to experience.
“This is Wottuna from Ethiopia” she says placing a carafe of batch-brewed black drip coffee and three stemless wine glasses in front of us, and brighter than her perhaps overly caffeinated eyes is the radiance with which she speaks the name of the coffee. A passion within which you can feel the respect and knowledge she carries, all indicating how deep the relationships in the chain goes. Just as we serve fish that has been touched by happy hands passed from the fisherman to our chefs and pigs from farmers that we’ve known for years, so Panther has its history, its coffees flavored with friendships as strong as the brew we taste, which is strikingly more nuanced when instead made V60, or poured over Japanese paper filters. Lovely, fruit forward and somehow cooling to the tongue.
In the competition Camila chose to tell a bit of the story of the farmer Maximo Ramos Gutierrez and the farm he calls Kailash after its Himalayan inspiration. It was a winning move, and I would be remiss to think I could do any better. So please watch his story, and if you’d like to take a glimpse into the specialty coffee arena being cultivated in this country then watch her competition piece. Either way, be inspired. Be optimistic, and know that everything you eat or drink today has the potential to be passion driven. Stories like these tell the tale, and you have the capacity to make it so.