Last weekend, American food writers and Latin media took a trip through the mountains of Boquete, Panama to experience Geisha coffee.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos by Katrina Yentch
When you put together a bunch of foodies and Latin media for a tasting of some of the world’s best coffee, the experience can actually be way more about where you’re drinking it than the coffee itself.
Last week, I joined a talented group of North American food writers and Latin radio hosts, social media influencers, and photographers in the highlands of Boquete, Panama for the third year of La Cosecha, a celebration of the coffee harvest season in the country. The event’s purpose was to promote even more tourism in Panama by turning its prized coffee farms into a tasting vacation. Similar to wine country exploration, they’re exposing this branch of specialty coffee to a general tourist audience in attempts at further boosting the country’s economy.
In previous years, much of Panama’s tourism has gone to its capital, Panama City—home to the most visited region of the Panama Canal, Casco Viejo (a UNESCO world heritage site), expat comforts, and rum drinking. Many also flock to the beaches of Bocas del Toro and Colón to soak in the rays of the Caribbean. Lately, however, Panama’s tourism board is making efforts to boost the travel of other regions in Panama, especially Boquete in the Chiriquí province. Its unique location by the Volcán Baru—the only volcano in Panama—also creates some of the most special and prized coffees in the world, particularly the Geisha variety, which many visitors are unaware of.
So how do you expose that to a tourist? You make sure the rest of the vacation is just as adventurous and fulfilling.
Hosted by culinary entrepreneur Jorge Chanis, La Cosecha takes guests on a packed four-day itinerary that blends coffee tastings and estate tours in with lavish food experiences, a waterfall hike, and dinner parties in the mountains. Oh, and a trip up the previously mentioned Volcán Baru, which stands at 3,400 meters above sea level—that’s even higher than Machu Picchu, which stands at 2430 masl. And yes, there was freshly brewed Geisha coffee waiting for us at the top of that volcano.
In our industry, we often say that coffee brings people together, which it certainly did during La Cosecha, but it was interesting that coffee wasn’t the exclusive focus—especially since Panamanian Geisha is what we go crazy for! Rather, coffee helped enhance the other attractions of Panama and the Chiriquí province. It brought people to the beautiful highlands of Boquete to experience the region’s nature, Panama’s food, and the friendly faces behind these exquisite coffees.
Some of the most renowned names in coffee were a part of the action, including the folks of Lamastus Family Estates (whose natural process Geisha broke the Best of Panama green coffee auction record for highest amount per pound paid at $803 in 2018) and Hacienda La Esmeralda, the family who brought Geisha to Panama, among other well-respected producers like Café Don Benjie, Don Pachi Estate, and Bambito Estate Coffee.
As one of the few coffee industry attendees at La Cosecha, I felt like I was bumping elbows with producers who could be considered “rockstars” in our world. People like the family of Lamastus Family Estates were popping in and out of the trip throughout the whole week, taking turns sharing small bites with us and dancing the night away at family parties where everyone seemed to know each other. We shared flights of beer with the Peterson family at Hacienda La Esmeralda. When it came to the coffee though, every family was excited and proud to share their space and what they were doing, whether it was experimental post-harvest processing methods or new SL-28 plants they were growing. It never felt like one family was competing with the other to have the best Geisha. Rather, everyone was simply trying to promote the coffee of Panama together while also promoting the tourism of their beautiful region.