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Wake Up and Smell the Coffee in Panama
January 20, 2016 Central America

It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. If you are a coffee lover and find yourself in Panama, you must add taking a coffee tour to your itinerary. We love coffee so much, it quickly moved close to the top of our itinerary for our trip to Panama.

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A Coffee Addiction

There are many “comforts” you learn to live without while backpacking around the world. You may find yourself sacrificing a comfortable bed and maybe even a shower or two…or three. But, one thing I refused to live without was coffee. Every country we traveled to we would drink the local coffee. This was quite enjoyable in European countries and a bit traumatic in some Asian countries.

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I must confess. Oren never drank coffee before he met me. So, it IS my fault he starting drinking it. Now he has been hooked for eight years. But, before you write us off as a bunch of coffee addicts, please know we don’t take our coffee intravenously. We do limit ourselves to two cups a day.

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Coffee and Boquete

With this passion for coffee, I was really excited we were heading to Boquete. This region produces the best coffee in Panama. Compared to some African countries, Panama is a just a small provider of the 2.25 billion cups of coffee consumed everyday around the world. But, it still produces over 10,000 tons every year. Don’t worry, Panama. That’s impressive to us.

Boquete, located in Chiriqui, is an absolutely beautiful area in western Panama. There are opportunities to hike to a volcano, go birdwatching and spot the colorful Quetzal, and explore nature along the river. You can also tour one of the local coffee plantations.

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Coffee Farm Tour

Our coffee tour took us to Finca dos Jefes. This seven-acre organic coffee farm is owned by two Americans from Berkeley, California. The land had been used as a farm for decades, but had been abandoned by the time they purchased it in back in 2003. As an organic coffee farm, the actual farming is closely aligned with the lunar calendar. (This is a process we first learned about with our experience at Emiliana, an organic winery in Chile.)

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The tour provided us with a great understanding of what it takes to produce excellent coffee beans. As you walk through the farm, you see thousands of coffee cherries drying naturally in the sun on drying beds. In order to distinguish good coffee beans from ones that may have impurities or were eaten by insects, the beans are floated in water. Good beans sink. Beans that do not sink to the bottom are called “floaters” and are considered “low-quality” beans. While the good beans go on to be roasted and sold as whole-bean coffee, we learned that certain popular coffee shops in the US purchase the floaters as ground coffee and sell it to their clientele. (We won’t name any names.) Lesson learned: If you want the best quality coffee, buy whole-bean coffee. With ground coffee, you may be getting a mix of quality beans and “floaters”.

Finca dos Jefes sells its coffee as Cafes de la Luna. After learning about the coffee-making process and walking around the farm, we sat on the patio of the coffee house to sample some of the coffee we had helped roast. This is also the same day Oren received an offer to work for CNN, so we had a lot to celebrate.

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We sampled a medium roast and a dark roast coffee while enjoying the fantastic view of Boquete. Our parting gift included a bag of Cafes de la Luna coffee beans.

For someone who likes coffee, the tour is definitely worth the time and money. For us, it was a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend an afternoon in Boquete, Panama.

-C.K.

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