Coffee in Panama
Panamanian coffee is excellent!
Panama's black stuff is finally being recognized in the international coffee world for the wonderful stuff that it is.
It is grown all over Panama but the finest is grown in the highlands of Chiriquí Province, near the towns of Boquete and Volcan, on the cool slopes of the mountains in plantations cut out from the rainforest.
Chriqui’s particular weather, geographical location, altitude and fertile volcanic soil determine the quality it produces. The plantations are usually located by a spring which provides pure crystalline water for the estate as well as for the washing and cleaning of the ripe fruit in the mill. Bushes here tends to be grown using traditional methods without use of herbicides and pesticides and without the usual devastation of nature caused by mono-culture methods used elsewhere.
Bright & Floral
Panama coffees are brightly toned with vivid floral aromatics and clean fruited notes.. They out-cup many higher priced coffees and the cup character is obvious and quality is consistent. There are many lower-grown Panamas that are ubiquitous in the U.S. market and of little interest BUT Boquete coffees from the Chirqui district, ones from small family-owned farms are the ones produce the truly distinct, unique coffees that gets coffee lovers excited.
Between October and March, during harvest time, thousands of Gnobe Bugle natives pick the ripe cherries, red sprinkles in a sea of green. The cherries are then taken to the processing plant, where they undergo different processes (washing, de-pulping, pre drying, drying, hulling and grain classification) and later it is selected according to size, color and shape finally roasted, ground and packed in its different presentations.
One of the best estates in Panama is Hacienda La Esmeralda. This estate is the source of the highly prized Geisha that won the SCAE’s highest honour, the Lifetime Achievement award, at the Awards for Coffee Excellence evening dinner held in 2008 during late June’s ‘Wonderful Coffee’ event in Copenhagen. It is the same coffee that reached a world record price at auction of $28 a pound!
To experience Geisha go to
this great store
Coffee quality is a product of altitude and processing. One of the truisms of coffee growers is that the bean is at its finest the moment the ripe cherry is picked from the tree. The only thing the grower can do from then on is to diminish the quality - he can in no way improve on it.
The berries are picked by hand by the local Indians. Every night, as the beans are received in the 'beneficio' (the processing plant), each harvester's production for the day is weighed and inspected for defects or green beans.
At places like the Esmeralda estate they strive for absolute consistency and excellence in preparation, to produce a beverage of medium plus acidity, a sweet and clean cup with a touch of citrus flavor. They say that although their processes are certified in accord with ISO 9002, they still devote enormous time to the details and fine touches that distinguishes Esmeralda Estate from 'just another cafe'.
The Wet Process
The berries are de-pulped within a few hours of being picked, preliminarily sorted, and the mucilage coat removed. A mix of both modern de-mucilageinating machines and traditional fermentation is used. It is then 'pre-dried' to remove surface water either in the sun or by machine. Final drying to 12% moisture is then done slowly using both outside terr aces as well as 'guardiolas' - mechanical dryers. In either case, thebean temperature never exceeds 38C.
This completes the 'wet' drying process and is probably the most delicate part of coffee handling. If quality is lost, it is nearly always at this point. When finished, the green bean is dry to export standards and still covered with a thin paper like covering called the ‘pergamino’ or parchment. At Esmeralda the beans are sacked at this point, each labeled with a lot number and the bags are then stored in a bodega or warehouse where temperature and humidity are monitored. Freshly dried like this, i has a slightly 'green' taste when cupped. Normally, with 45 to 60 days storage, the product matures to its full taste.
The Dry Process
The dry process begins three days before the black gold is to be loaded into its container and shipped. The beans are again cupped and it is decided which lots are at their optimum for shipment. The 'parchment' coffee is then fed into the de-huller which removes the parchment by rubbing the beans against one another. Again, it is important to make sure that there is no temperature rise due to friction.
Next it goes onto the size sorter where it is sorted according to the buyers’ wishes. They may wish it sorted into large and small beans for more homogeneity in roasting or he may want the very large beans separated for display in whole roasted bean display bins. By the same token, they also separate out pea-berries at this point. After the size separator, the coffee passes to the density table where the beans, now of a more uniform size, are further sorted by density. Again, cup quality is related to the ''hardness' of the bean or density - a result of altitude. Less dense beans, which might harm the cup quality, are separated at this point.
As the beans come off the density table, it is put into export labeled jute bags, each filled to a net weight of 60 kilos (132 lbs), and sewn shut with an identifying lot number sewn into the bag. Early in the morning of the fourth day 300 of these bags are carefully loaded into a 20 foot container already on a truck. By late morning the truck is en route to the Panama Canal and the port of Manzanillo (on the Atlantic) or Balboa (on the Pacific) where the container is loaded aboard a ship the following day and heads for the high seas. After that, it is up to the roaster to present the product at its best.
Another excellent producer is the Duran Cafe Estate
The history of Cafe Duran goes back to the beginning of the 20th century. In 1907, barely three years after the Republic was born, Mr. Esteban Duran Amat, a business pioneer, started roasting beans in Gorgona, a small town located inside the banks of what was to become the Panama Canal.
While the country was rising as a new nation, and due to the construction of the Panama Canal, Cafe Duran moved its establishment to the centre of Panama City, where coffee was roasted and hand-packed - as was the custom then - and sold to the public. Since then, their customers have been enjoying the aroma, richness and flavor of a wonderful drink produced through the efforts of a 100% Panamanian family
Since the late 70's, Cafe Duran has been exporting top quality SHB Arabica beans. They have been recognized for their "Extra Fancy" large size beans and "Peaberry" green variety. Europe and the United States are their main destinations.
In addition to their leading product, Duran's Traditional Blend, they produce flavoured coffees like vanilla, toasted almonds, Irish cream and Swiss chocolate.
This estate produces excellent Arabica grown in Boquete at 4500ft. It is grown with no insecticide or pesticide, surrounded by virgin rain forest and clear mountain streams. The drink has good body, a chocolate aroma and sweet acidity.
Since the late 1800's, three generations of the Ruiz family have been dedicated to the traditional varieties and natural-system growing methods characteristic of excellent flavor and nature preservation.
What was once a single farm in Boquete, is now a family owned and operated crafting enterprise in Panama.
Casa Ruiz, S.A. not only grows and processes the green beans for exports but also roasts and packs 7% of it under its trademark CAFE RUIZ. In addition to their own farms, over three hundred small-scale family farms partner with Casa Ruiz, S.A. to process, roast and market their product. The headquarters is located in the Boquete Valley at the skirts of the Baru Volcano, in the western side of Panama.
Environmentally Friendly Growing
Much of the coffee in the world is grown using the mono-culture technique of clearing the land by cutting all the trees and planting high production hybrid varieties. Casa Ruiz, S.A. and its partner family farms choose to follow the Boquete's traditional way: the environment-friendly or nature-system grown technique; a product that is grown according to the natural surroundings demands. While this type of growing does not produce a high yield, the combination of shade trees and plants provides many advantages:
Biodiversity is created per each type of geographical location.
Soil quality is maintained and even improved.
The traditional, more flavorful, non-hybrid and shade loving varieties, known as Typica, can be grown.
The trees provide a natural food supply for birds and beneficial insects.
Migratory and resident bird habitat is provided.
The tree canopy provides mulch for the plants to grow.
The use of chemicals is greatly reduced or eliminated.
People, as key actors, learn to understand sustainability through observation of natural systems per geographical location.
Finca Hartman & Bird Conservation
Finca Hartman is a small family farm owned and operated by Ratibor Hartmann and his sons and daughter. The land use is predominantly shade-grown coffees, under towering remnant rainforest trees, and intact pre-montane highland forest that serves as a buffer zone to the Parque Internacional La Amistad.
At elevations between 4000 and 6000ft there are a number of accessible dirt roads that pass through many habitat types that are excellent for birding, hiking, and exploring. The family is very supportive of conservation and research and often has Smithsonian affiliated researchers living and working on the land. There are places to stay on the state.
La Torcaze Estate
The four Janson brothers who produce La Torcaza Estate are fortunate to grow in an area with ideal conditions for producing an estate coffee.
The farm is located in the extreme western part of Panama, just 25 miles east of the Costa Rican border, at an altitude of 4,500 feet on the southwestern slope of Volcan Baru. This altitude and volcanic soil as as we already said are well suited for growing the best arabica beans. La Torcaza Estate is one of the world's most unique farms as its relatively level terrain allows the coffee cherry to ripen evenly, resulting in more consistent bean quality and density.
The high altitude corresponds with a longer growing season which allows the development of the complex flavors that distinguish fine specialty beans. The cooler climate reduces the number of pests that threaten lower altitude varieties.
The Jansons complement the farm's blessed conditions by insisting on fertilizing the soil with natural micro-organisms and the cherries's own fertile pulp to sustainably protect the soil. Herbicides are also avoided by careful hand weeding.
estate coffee website
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