Once again my blog has enabled us to become acquainted with more great people. Dan and Janet arrived in Boquete a couple days ago. They had somehow found my blog while researching Panama as a destination for their retirement. They live in Canada and are planning to relocate in the Spring, likely to Panama. They are fed up with the cold in Alberta and ready to find a place where they can enjoy the outdoors year around. When Janet called me to let me know they were in town, I suggested we meet them at Big Daddy’s for dinner. When Scott and I were waiting for them I had no idea who we were waiting for because I neglected to ask them what they looked like. But I noticed a couple walking to the back patio and the husband was looking at his watch as though he were checking to see if they were on time, I knew this must be who we were meeting because ,who looks at their watch here in Boquete?LOL! We ended up really hitting it off with these two. We have much in common with them including the all important similarity, Dan is the guy in charge of cooking in their family! Scott and Dan both bemoaned the fact that leaving the kitchens that they love hurts their hearts just a little. ( ok, that’s my take on the conversation..Ja!Ja!Ja!) They both agreed that the ovens they are accustomed to cooking on are far superior to what they have so far experienced here. Yep, Stove-snob kindred spirits, for sure! (Jim Varsamis, are you feeling their pain?)
After a great evening with Dan & Janet we invited them to go with us on a coffee tour. We’ve been wanting to do that but just haven’t made the time to do it yet, so we thought it would be fun to do it with them. Well, I should backup…Originally, we had invited them to join us on a hike to the “Lost Waterfalls”, but alas, the rainy morning scared us all off! Hey! We already did a WET hike on Saturday! So we opted for a bit of driving around and showing off this scenic area before catching a tour at one of the many Coffee Fincas here in Boquete. We never seem to tire of driving around up here and just soaking up all the incredible vistas that surrounds us. It’s just so incredibly green and lush! It seems as though there are a never ending variety of trees and did I mention Flowers! Everywhere I look I see another variety of Hibiscus or Angels Trumpet or a unique color of bougainvillea or a strange looking fruit hanging on a tree. If there is such a thing as a “feast for the eyes”, then my eyes are treated to one every single day. Our new friends seemed to enjoy the scenery every bit as much as we did on our little mini driving tour of Boquete. As we were driving around we spotted a spectacular waterfall on the side of the road and just had to stop and take a few pictures. We felt as though we had lucked out to to have had the pleasure of enjoying a waterfall without having had to hike to it! Ha!Ha!Ha! Noooo, a hike would have been really fun as well but what a great surprise to find this one just waiting there for us on the side of the road. You just never know what treat you may find around the corner as you drive around exploring around here. It could be a road side vender selling handmade indigenous artwork, or a pickup on the side of the road with fresh fish for sale, a double rainbow in the distance or a friendly wave from a happy looking machete wielding native ( a “Happy” looking guy with a machete is preferable to an angry one, right? ) . We never fail to be thrilled by little surprises we encounter in this new place we now call home.
And the coffee tour was yet another great surprise. We chose a tour at a finca called “FINCA DOS JEFES
http://www.boquetecoffeetour.com . We had read about and heard from many people that there are many different tours to be had in and around the Boquete area. Eventually, we knew we would get around to going to one but didn’t really know which one to choose. After suggesting this as our plan B with our new friends we got online and read on Trip Advisers about this particular finca. I called to check on availability of getting a tour that day and we got a reservation at 2:30, Yippee! So after our little drive we arrived at the Finca and followed the instructions to “honk our horn” so the little kid who lives there would open the gate for us. The owner of the Finca is Rich Lipner and we were pleasantly surprised to find that he was to be our guide for the tour of his coffee farm. He is a fellow Californian expat who moved here from Berkley about 10 years ago. He and his wife own the farm and have learned the business themselves by trial and error and huge amounts of studying and researching all there is to know about coffee production around the world as well as here in the highlands of Boquete. Rich has an impressive amount of knowledge about coffee , the growth and production of coffee as well as the history of the indigenous workers who harvest and work on the farms all around this area. His passion for the business is felt in his presentation and I don’t think anyone could walk away from his tour without feeling as though you have learned about not only coffee but about the surprising amount of blood , sweat and tears that go into each bag of coffee you buy at the store or cup you purchase at Starbucks.
I was especially impressed and touched by Rich’s care and concern for the workers who support their families by working in the coffee fincas. He talked a lot about how little money many of these people make at some of the farms here. I was surprised to learn that some only get $6-6.50 A DAY! During the harvest they are paid by how many buckets of Coffee Cherries they pick . So many times the entire family will work in the farms. Minimum wage for these workers is something like $9.50-10.00 a day. And much of the housing that is provided is horrible. Rich is very concerned that the laborers who are employed by him are well compensated and he provides them with adequate housing. Actually the housing is quite nice.
Finca Dos Jefes is an organic farm. They use no pesticides and take special care that even the soil is replenished from nutrients that the coffee plants take. He has planted various fruit trees mixed in with the 8000 coffee trees on his farm. He pointed out a particular tree that we noticed interspersed throughout the farm, its called a Poro tree. This tree is good for the soil because it somehow gives nitrogen back to the soil. I think he said that the leaves from the tree are nitrogen rich which is good for replenishing what the coffee trees take out of the soil. Three considerations that Rich has worked hard to address are , Shade for the birds , Fair trade for people, and Organic farming for the land. He has a strong belief in the equitable distribution of the money made in the coffee industry to the growers not just the retailers. The coffee industry is one that is very complex and has a very long and volatile history. I walked away from the tour wanting to read more about the history of the coffee industry. I had no idea that they even have very specialized and highly trained people who are called ,”Cuppers”!! He said they are the Sommeliers of coffee.
Here is the definition of “Cupping”, according to Wikipedia: “Coffee cupping, or coffee tasting, is the practice of observing the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee. It is a professional practice but can be done informally by anyone or by professionals known as “Master Tasters”. A standard coffee cupping procedure involves deeply sniffing the coffee, then loudly slurping the coffee so it spreads to the back of the tongue. The coffee taster attempts to measure aspects of the coffee’s taste, specifically the body (the texture or mouthfeel, such as oiliness), sweetness (the perceived sweetness at the sides of the tongue), acidity (a sharp and tangy feeling at the tip of the tongue, like when biting into an orange), flavour (the characters in the cup), and aftertaste. Since coffee beans embody telltale flavours from the region where they were grown, cuppers may attempt to identify the coffee’s origin.”
Who knew?? Not I!!
After our walk around the farm Rich then had us do a tasting of three different roasts. Dark roast, Light roast, and Medium roast. We all got to smell the beans freshly ground then he brewed each different roast for us and poured us each three separate cups of each different roast. Well, it was fun to learn the distinct differences of each different cup of coffee and to then discover which one we enjoyed most. Except for Janet, who is not a coffee lover at all ( I think it’s fair to say she is a “Hater” of coffee ), we each found that we differed in our preferences. Scott is a lover of the Dark roast, Dan was a fan of the Medium and I really liked the light roast best. The final part of our tour was when Janet discovered her natural talent for roasting coffee! YEP! Who knew that a hater of coffee would turn out to be the best roaster in town! Ha! Rich walked us through the entire process of actually roasting the beans and Janet had the pleasure of being the official roaster for the fresh roasted beans we got to take home! I think she may have missed her calling and should be considering a second career when she moves to Panama!! LOL! I’m pretty sure Dan would not be opposed to being her official “Cupper”! Hey now, mind out of the gutter people!!! Ha!Ha!Ha!
Sunday proved to be a very nice day and I was sad to see Dan and Janet leave. I know they are planning to return and will look forward to spending time with them again. Although, they haven’t yet decided what area of Panama will suit them best. They are big water lovers and it sounds like living on the coast will be a dream come true for them. We think it will be fun to have them to visit on the beach and they will have us to visit in the mountains. Whatever they decide I know they will be happy because that’s just the kind of people they are. Once again, another day well lived for us and our Adventure continues…