Monday, August 29, 2011

Coffee Talk!

Let's begin our coffee tour....
Today I journey to a small coffee plantation up in the cloudy hills of Boquete. The place is called Finca Milagrosa run by Don Tito.  Our energetic guide, Jason, would take us on a lovely tour on this 5 hectar plantation. It all began with car parts and some creative thinking to create Finca La Milagrosa or "the great miracle".
Unripe coffee berries(cerezas)
Only the Arabica species is grown here at the plantation and in Panama.  However several varieties of the Arabica were found on the grounds.....Katuay, Typica, Geysha(Geisha), and Liberica. Panama wasn't really known for their coffee until the discovery of the Geysha bean. Today Panama has increased their export of coffees and their name is now on the world map.
We began our tour with these coffee bushes above.  Most are easy to pick from because they are maintained for human height.  However, if they get too tall......
This hooked stick(gancho) helps bend the tree to reach the coffee berries.  It takes 5 years to begin producing a great amount of coffee.  At 15 years, the tree will have its best crop.  While coffee can be grown in Panama, it can be difficult at times.  It was explained that farmers cannot really call their coffee organic because they have to spray to keep a fungus or mushroom off the leaves of the plant. This fungicide is extremely important and without it, coffee plantations could not exist here. 
Once the berries are picked, they are set out to dry for 15 to 25 days.
The dried beans are later separated by hand and machine. 
A chicken home is placed on the plantation. Here are two things that they do to naturally fertilize their crops.....
The Castor plant acts as a natural fertilizer when the beans drop from the plant.  In the background, you see the purple foliage dispersed among the coffee trees. For me, this was new information and really cool to find out.  I asked if they had issues with volunteer plants popping up, but they said it wasn't a problem at all.  If there was a sprout, it was pulled from the ground.
And of course, chicken manure is added around the base of the coffee tree.  Honestly, taking a pic of manure was not my thing but it helps narrate the tour:)
Once the coffee tree has finished producing its major crop after 15 years, the plant is cut back so that it will grow new limbs and create more berries.
All around the property, there are old car parts that were created to process coffee. Water will separate the coffee beans and create 3 categories....fine coffee, medium coffee, and low coffee.  The good stuff floats to the top while the lower sinks....and that is how Folgers can sell their coffee so cheap.:) Every coffee has its purpose. My parents love it.
Here are the 3 coffee roasts.....the dark beans(or Italian Roast), the middle beans are considered to fit into the category of French coffee, and the light beans(bottom) fall under American roast. 
This picture above is important and may be something that you don't know.  Well, I didn't. The lighter beans have more caffeine while the darkest beans have less. Once dried and separated, the coffee beans will undergo the roasting process at 250 C for 20 to 25 minutes.
Roasting the smells so good.
Tito, the owner, is standing to the right while Jason, our super friendly guide, is in front.
Creating coffee is a lot of work. Someone asked Don Tito if he was planning to expand his operation.  His reponse? "Why? More land equals more work:)"  If you are looking to take a break from mosquitos and sand flies, this is the perfect morning or afternoon day trip to get you out of your bed but not all muddied up. Boquete is really a lovely city, but more importantly, a good place to recharge after major hiking treks.  The larger plantations will charge more for a tour while the smaller ones will give you the same presentation at a smaller rate.  At the end, we purchased some coffee for friends back home. This tour had two scheduled times.  One at 8 AM and another at 2 PM.  The tour lasted around 3 hours and cost 20 dollars. Tours are offered in Spanish and in English.  Phone 6632-8645. Email:
At the end of the tour, we were treated to some delicious coffee. Until tomrrow....


  1. castor beans...aren't they poisoness?
    This trip I think I would take a pass on
    like watching sausage being made in a way
    But I am so amazed at your adventerous spirit
    good for you

  2. I'm laughing right now. Thanks for getting my day started. Castor are poisoness so it was a shock that they allowed them to grow between the various coffee bushes. I'm not good at taking vacations. My parents, partner, and some of my siblings and friends groan when they hear that I want to take a trip somewhere because it's more like a workout than a week on the beach with margaritas. I always look at it in this way....when will I be back in Panama again? Plus all this info is useful for my students who have questions about the cultures. I have to admit that this blog is a guilty pleasure for me to write. I can geek out a bit:) Hope your week started off well. Chris:)

  3. Cool - never have read about this before. Even though good java is so important to my desert mornings, more of the French or Italian roast!

    I like how you tell how they get Folger's. No bottom feeding for me!

  4. Hi Chris, it looks like you missed to put the part of depulping after harvesting, because those beans you showed are devoid of pulp already. Then it goes through roasting. At this point i would like to inject a fact, the lightly roasted (you pointed as American style) has the most antioxidants, because this decrease correlatedly with degree of roasting.

  5. Thanks Andrea for the addition! I appreciate the additional info. Forgot that last part:)Chris Las Aventuras


Thanks for stopping by!