Daniel and I didn’t have much planned for the five days that we were in Boquete. We figured that we would do some hiking, maybe take a dip in the Caldera Hot Springs, and, if we were feeling adventurous, make the sunrise hike to the top of Volcan Baru. The one thing we did know we wanted to do, however, was to take a Boquete coffee tour. Although neither of us are big coffee drinkers, the coffee making process interested us. And, since Central America is known for it’s coffee, we figured ‘why not?’. So the morning of our second day in Boquete, we called up a coffee farm and set up a tour.
That afternoon our guide Amy picked us up from a cafe in downtown Boquete. A few stops later, the rest of our tour group had joined us. Then, we started the short but motion sickness inducing drive up the mountain to Finca dos Jefes, the coffee farm that we would be touring.
Coffee, An Introduction
For the first part of the tour, we all sat down around two tables on a patio overlooking the farm. The view was absolutely incredible, and I was pretty distracted by it as the lovely Amy gave us an introduction to the farm.
First, Amy told us about how expat owner Richard first bought the abandoned farm in 2003 when he retired. Originally, he didn’t plan on doing anything with the farm. But then, as retired people generally do, Richard got bored. So his wife kindly reminded him that he had just bought an abandoned coffee farm, and he got to work restoring the place.
We also learned about the growing practices of the farm and history of coffee growing in Panama. I was definitely a fan of their policies regarding the native Ngäbe-Buglé harvesters, who are normally very underpaid. Rather than by the bucket of cherries, Finco dos Jefes pays its harvesters by the hour. This also allows them to focus on finding the best quality cherries on the plant.
As we listened all about the history of the finca and the growing practices of the farm, we sipped on a sample of Cascara tea, made from the skins of the coffee cherry. Tea, I thought to myself, I could definitely get behind, and it was absolutely delicious!
Then, we were able to get our hands on some fresh-picked coffee cherries. Amy instructed us to bite into them, where we found un-roasted, slimy coffee beans. She then showed us what the beans look like after they dry and roast them.
The Actual Tour
With all of this new information in our heads, it was time to stretch our legs and get to the meat of the tour. First, we walked over to the drying tables, where we got to see the dry method first hand. As Amy had explained to us earlier, there are two different methods for processing coffee – the wet and the dry. The age-old dry method is much more environmentally conscious and involves simply laying out the harvested coffee cherries in the sun. Then, you wait for their moisture to decrease to 11%. Pretty simple, right?
Of course, the dry method has challenges of its own, but they can usually be avoided. If the weather is bad, for example, then all you have to do is cover the cherries up until it’s sunny again.
Once the cherries are dry, they turn brown and smooth, as we saw later on in the tour. It was so much fun to run your hands over the dry cherries – it was almost like a tiny hand massage!
Through the rest of the tour, we wandered through the farm. We visited the nursery, where they’re growing new, better quality plants than the ones that were originally planted on the farm. While we were there, Amy talked about how the finca follows the lunar calendar. This means that they grow all of their coffee according to the cycle of the moon. So, all of these cute little trees won’t be planted until the moon is just right.
Later on down the road we also got to peak into the processing facility, and of course see even more crazy mountain views.
After a walk around the farm, we headed back to our tables to learn all about the art of coffee tasting. Amy talked us through the process of coffee tasting while she brewed some of Finca dos Jefes’ own medium and dark roast coffees.
Then, it was time to taste the coffee (and fend off the adorable begging dogs)! And yes, it was pretty darn delicious.
The final part of our tour included a volunteer from the crowd – Daniel! With a little bit of hesitation, Daniel measured out some coffee beans to pour into the roaster. Twelve minutes later, and he had a freshly batch of roasted coffee to bring home to his mom.
At the end of the tour, we all toasted to our freshly roasted coffee with a cool cerveza. And we all left with a bag of coffee to take home. Now, drinking that coffee transports me back to beautiful Panama.
If You Go
There are several different coffee tours available from Boquete, but I highly recommend taking a tour with Finca dos Jefes. For $30 a person, you receive transportation from Boquete, a highly informative tour, two cups of coffee, a cup of tea, a bottle of beer, AND a 5 oz bag of coffee to take home, so it’s definitely value for your money. Plus, the views are incredible and the four dogs are super cute!
To book the tour in advance, fill out the form online. If you’re more of a last minute planner, then you can call them once you are in Boquete. More than likely, a tour will be available for you to take that very day, and you’ll be able to take the Boquete coffee tour of your dreams!