Panama is a small coffee producing country that has many advantages for growing and producing a very special coffee. Panama has a very good coffee growing and producing climate and environment. It has a high elevation, beautiful volcanic soil, the right balance of moisture and tropical highland sun. The various micro climates that produce a variety of flavors and tastes are unique to the area.
Panamanian coffee is grown at a very high altitude (starting at 1400 ft), where it is has a chance to grow slower in the cooler temperatures, which allows the flavor and aromas to really develop. Biodiversity is highly valued – almost all of the coffee is shade grown, in the beautiful native rain forests provide living habitats for birds, wildlife, natural water resources, feed plants, and animals, that are all are being protected.
Old School Generational Know-How
The traditional Panamanian seed stocks, old-school farming know-how and methods of milling have been passed on from generation to generation. The Panamanians have combined good technical skills and innovative mindsets to their farming methods, and they are quality focused. The farmers know they have to compete on a quality level and are willing to learn, experiment, and 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 in Panama are worked by hand. They do not use large, industrial style or mechanical equipment. The farmers are very knowledgeable and very smart with their coffee production. Many of Panama’s first coffee growers were European engineers and managers who immigrated to Panama to work on the canal. Their descendants had United States University educations, they spoke English and had quite a bit of agriculture know how. The knowledge and hard work were brought into Panama’s rich coffee industry.
The farmers are very smart about the quality of coffee they grade and price their coffee accordingly. They cup and grade their own coffee; then recommend specific roast profiles to their buyers. They are quite sure of what they charge for the price for their quality.
Trends in Panamanian Coffee
Several strong trends in conversations are heard from the Panama producers:
- Coffee is grown more and more in an environmentally sensitive way. Farms are definitely using more sustainable agricultural practices for growing, harvesting, and processing.
- International coffee buyers are visiting Panama a lot more frequently to see Panama coffee quality and where it originates from for themselves.
- More and more Geisha varietals are being cultivated using different methods of growing and processing bringing Panama to the top of the Geisha pyramid.
All of these aspects 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 of Panamanian coffee. More and more producers arrive every year garnering spectacular prices.
Logistical ease and good infrastructure – shipping is simple and easy with the Panama Canal and two big ports. Roads are excellent and traveling to and from most of the farms is easy. 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.