What makes the coffee from Panama special?
Being a small coffee producing country together with many other advantages make Panama coffee so special:
- An ideal coffee producing environment with high elevation, volcanic soil, the right balance of moisture and sun in a tropical highland climate.
- The many microclimates that produce a variety in flavors and taste profiles are unique.
- Coffee is grown at a very high altitude (starting at 1.400 mts), where it is given the chance, due to the lower temperatures and resulting slower growth, to really develop its flavors and aromas (aroma safe or in German “Aromatresor”).
- Biodiversity is highly valued – almost all of the coffee is shade grown, native rainforests provide living habitats for birds and other wildlife, natural water resources feed plants and animals and are being protected.
- Traditional seed stocks, traditional farming know-how and milling methods that have been transferred from one generation to the next, are combined with very advanced technical skills.
- Innovative mindsets – The farming methods are quality focused, the farmers know they have to compete on a quality level and are willing to learn, to experiment, they are very receptive to implementing new ideas to get the best out of the beans, and some of them are taking coffee cultivation to new levels.
- The farms are worked by hand. Large mechanical and industrial style equipment is non-existent.
- The farmers are very knowledgeable and very well educated. Many of Panamas first coffee growers were European engineers and managers who immigrated to Panama to work on the canal. Their descendants mostly received US university education and they spoke English and had an abundance of agriculture know how. Combined with hard work, this knowledge was applied to Panama’s coffee industry.
- The farmers know about their quality, they cup and grade their coffee, recommend certain roast profiles to the buyers and they are confident to charge the right price for their quality.
In our constant conversations with the producers in Panama we noticed several strong trends:
- Coffee is grown more and more in an environmentally sensitive way. Farms are embracing sustainable agricultural practices for growing, harvesting and processing.
- International coffee buyers and cuppers are visiting more and more to see Panama coffee quality and where it stems from for themselves.
- More and more Geisha varietals are being cultivated using different methods of growing and processing catapulting Panama to the top of the Geisha pyramid.
All of these point towards a promising future for the development of the Panamanian coffee industry.
Further proof of the level of quality in Panama is that it is not part of the Cup of Excellence group of countries, but holds its own competition and auction every year – “Best of Panama” – organized by the SCAP, the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama. This competition attracts global buyers competing for the best lots. More and more producers arrive every year garnering spectacular prices.
- Logistical ease and good infrastructure – shipping is easy with the Panama Canal and two big ports. Roads are excellent and traveling to and from most of the farms is easy.
- Straight forward administrative processes.
- N’gobe Bugle Indians are employed for much of the year and especially for the harvest season. The people come to the coffee farms to work under some of the best wage standards and labor laws in Central America.