Being in the middle of Costa Rica and Colombia, Panama is prime real estate for growing coffee. High mountains, strong winds, and volcanic soil are all the elements needed to make a good Arabica bean thrive. The coffee history in Panama began in the early 19th century when coffee beans were first brought to Boquete by a retired Sea Captain who had met and then later married a Panamanian woman. The coffee plants were originally planted along the coastline but as colonists began to settle, they brought them into the Boquete valley in the highlands where the coffee began to thrive in the valley.
As settlers moved in and Boquete was officially founded in April 1911, the high altitude at 3900 feet above sea level, along the influences of the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean they found the rich volcanic soil and the shade of the Baru volcano was best suited for their coffee.
The town of Boquete, home to the World Renowned Boquete Coffee
This would be the place that all sorts of varieties from around the world would be subjected to these prime growing conditions. Over the next years, there was not much experimentation with cross breeding and not much focus was directed on any certain specific flavor. As the coffee industry grew, Panama was starting to become a growing supplier of coffee in the mid 19th century.
Up until a few decades ago, that was all the coffee industry in Boquete was about in that the coffee history in Panama had come full circle and was producing. When the large amounts of investment money and a growing Ex Pat and retiree population from the U.S. and Canada, the prices for land began to rise. While the Global coffee market was being flooded by cheaper lower grade coffees form Brazil and Vietnam. This was time for Panama to set itself apart from the rest of the coffee producing world.
The generation to generation skills were passed down, and the different micro climates were beginning to produce some very unique and distinct profiles. The farming mindsets became more stringent and quality not quantity became the focus of the coffee history in Panama. Panama Varietals describes this transition “The farming methods are quality focused, the farmers know they have to compete on a quality level and are willing to learn, to experiment, they are very receptive to implementing new ideas to get the best out of the beans, and some of them are taking coffee cultivation to new levels”.
The Geisha Coffee from Panama began as farmers honed their craft and were able to bring a unique and desirable profile from each coffee estate that was unlike any other estate. As reputations grew, so did the quality of the Boquete region which has become the coffee we enjoy today. Panama has taken great pride throughout the years and currently holds it’s own competition, “Best of Panama” – organized by the SCAP, the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama to grade & reward the farmers for all the hard work they have done.
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