Panama produces some of the world’s best coffee, and if you’re a connoisseur, this has been on your radar for a while. Panama’s “Geisha” coffee has won numerous awards over the years, particularly recently, and is considered the highest-priced coffee (per pound) in the world. It is famous for its almost tea-like flavor profile, its delicate and fine growing process, and its rarity. Of course, at between $60 and $1,000 per pound (yes, you read that right), it’s not the most cost-accessible coffee in the world, nor is it a practical bean for your average day-to-day coffee drinker. Luckily, in Panama, you have plenty of more choices. All of them are high quality for the price, and all are part of the gastronomical and cultural fabric of Panama as a whole. Here’s more.
For the average coffee drinker, Panama is still tops
If you are a casual coffee drinker, you’ll find lots of options for a fantastic cup of Joe in Panama that far outweigh many international brands when it comes to quality and price. There are many local brands like Cafe Duran, Sitton, and Palo Alto that are sold widely in pretty much every supermarket and bodega in the country. Then there are smaller, more craft brands that number in the dozens that are available at smaller stores, regionally, or boutique coffee houses. Panama coffee is heavily exported as well, and with the smaller brands, if you are located far away, you may be able to get them to ship you some at volume, by speaking with the producers of the coffee directly.
Regardless of which Panama coffee you choose, you can be assured that it is made from high-quality beans, harvested locally by Panamanian farmers. Even the big brands often contract out traditional farms to get their beans, and you don’t lose too much quality on the mass-produced coffee, though it is noticeably different than small-batch coffee (but not in a bad way).
Where does Panama’s coffee grow?
If you know anything about Panama, you’ll know that it is a small country, geographically speaking. This means that there is limited space for agriculture, and subsequently, limited space for coffee growing. All of Panama’s coffee, for this purpose, grows in the west of the country, in the mountains in and around the Chiriqui province. The most prominent locations for Panama’s coffee plantations (as they call them) are around the towns of Boquete and Volcan. In these soil-rich mountains, there is the perfect climate for growing coffee. It’s also a favorable climate for people, which is why so many expats decide to retire or relocate to that part of the country.
Coffee plantations are both historically important and present day-relevant to Panama’s cultural heritage and economy. You can tour many of the coffee plantations in Chiriqui to see the process for yourself. From the early stages of the beans grown in the hills, to the picking, to the cultivating, and to the roasting, it is an age-old process that produces such great taste and aroma, you’ll want to have a cup immediately. Coffee-based tourism is actually a good industry in Panama, despite the relative small geographic size of the region and number of plantations. Tourists, both local and foreign, love checking out the process of making Panama coffee, as well as purchasing coffee to take home, and sampling it while they’re there.
If you’re craving a good cup of coffee, we highly recommend checking out any of the many coffee plantation tours available in Chiriqui. They are low cost, and can be added to any trip to the west of Panama if you plan your time out right. Enjoy!