After spending a good deal of time in the moderate climates of Costa Rica and Guatemala (due to the altitude), arriving in Panama City was a bit of a shock. It was extremely humid and hot. The heat however was short lived since we quickly hopped on another plane towards one of our two coffee destinations in Panama, the region of Boquete. Boquete made an instant impact on us; with its lush vegetation, waterfalls, and cliffs, it is easily one of the most beautiful coffee growing regions we’ve ever seen.
Our next day in Boquete was spent on likely the most famous coffee farm in the world: Esmeralda. Rachel Peterson, one of the owners of the farm, picked us up in the morning and took us to the family farmhouse, where we met with her brother Daniel and their father Price. We had a great lunch together, where we shared passionate conversation with the Petersons about coffee, dairy and Panamanian politics.
After lunch, Rachel took us for a tour of one of their coffee farms in Jaramillo, where we learned a great deal about Geisha trees – primarily, that they are hard to grow, they are temperamental and they ripen very unevenly – which has important implications when it comes to picking those trees (i.e. more uneven requires more pickings). As we were walking back from the Jaramillo farm, we visited an area of the farm where the Petersons have planted a wide array of coffee varietals from all over the world. They are watching these plants carefully, and where they can, tasting the coffee that they produce. Although they have no immediate plans with these trees, it will be interesting to see what they learn about these foreign varietals and their feasibility in Boquete.
When we returned from the Jaramillo farm, we toured the wet and dry mill and had the pleasure of cupping a table of fresh crop Geisha’s. We cupped 7 coffees from various parts of the farm and there was a clear winner, a coffee that we scored 90 points from the upper, Mario region, of their Jaramillo farm. A really nice treat for us was bumping into Charles and Anne from Koppi, a small café/roasterie in Helsingborg, Sweden.
We ended our Esmeralda visit by watching the wet mill in action. It was impressive how clean all the milling equipment is at Esmeralda, something we don’t take for granted but we’ve seen a great deal of mills place less importance on keeping their equipment pristinely clean. It’s clear that Esmeralda started something great back in 2004 when they first won the Best of Panama competition, but it was clearly not a fluke, as they continue to take great steps towards making their product better year after year.