Willem Boot’s Panamanian Coffees Win Big at Good Food Awards

At Good Food Awards, JBC and Mudhouse win with Willem Boot’s Finca La Mula, Panama, and Equator Coffees wins with Finca Sophia, a Panamanian farm co-owned by Equator and Boot

Willem Boot has won the triple-crown of coffee at the Good Food Awards ”not as a roaster, but as a coffee farmer.
Known internationally for his consulting work, which is based out of his San Rafael, Calif., company headquarters, Willem is also a veteran coffee farmer who owns Finca La Mula and Finca Sophia, the latter of which he co-owns with Equator Coffees & Teas owners Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell. At the Good Food Awards ceremony last night in San Francisco, JBC Coffee Roasters, which is in Madison, Wis., and Mudhouse Coffee Roasters out of Charlottesville, Va., won awards with coffee from Finca La Mula. Equator Coffees took home gold for coffee grown at Finca Sophia.
At Finca Sophia, from left: Willem, Helen, Brooke, and farm manager Kelly Hartmann.
At Finca Sophia, from left: Willem, Helen, Brooke, and farm manager Kelly Hartmann.
Willem is known for his career-long fascination with the geisha  variety, which is planted at both Finca La Mula and Finca Sophia. “I became obsessed with geisha and went off to Ethiopia to discover the roots of this variety in the forests of western Ethiopia,” Willem says of his first time tasting the variety at a cupping session in Panama in 2004. On the trail in rural Ethiopia, Willem recalls, “One day, the roar of a bloodthirsty lion following our tracks make me come to my senses.”
From JBC Coffee Roasters, this bag of La Mula scored 97 from Coffee Review.
From JBC Coffee Roasters, this bag of La Mula scored 97 from Coffee Review.
The harrowing experience inspired him to seek a safer place to develop his coffee crush, and he decided on Panama as the location where he would  establish a small forest plantation on the slopes of Volcan Baru, a dormant volcano, close to the border with Costa Rica.  The farm was named La Mula (the mule), and 6,000 geisha trees were planted under the protective canopy of rainforest shade trees.
Willem with fresh-picked cherry during Finca La Mula's 2015 harvest.
Willem with fresh-picked cherry during Finca La Mula’s 2015 harvest.
A year later, Finca Sophia was started by Willem and his coffee friends, Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell, who own Equator in the San Francisco Bay Area.  “The collaboration has enabled us to produce a level of quality which is unparalleled in the world of coffee, using the best standards for sustainable agriculture,” he says. This year, Willem will  open a state-of-the-art coffee campus and R&D center in San Rafael, Calif.
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