One of the things that makes Boquete unique as a coffee producing region is the number of small farms producing coffee here. Coffee has been a major agricultural product in Boquete for years, great volcanic soil, lots of rain, mountain slope drainage and cheap land and labor made coffee profitable to large producers; that is all changing now.
In the past ten years Boquete has been a hub of expat immigration, land prices have gone up as have homes on smaller pieces of land. There are many small coffee farms here now that will never earn a dollar. People living on the land continue to grow coffee for their own consumption and sell the excess. These are the Boutique farms, some like Finca Dos Jefes harvest, process and roast to order. Others like Ferdabella are too small to support processing and roasting so the coffee is harvested, transported the same day to a processor, pulped and dried. The coffee is then roasted in small batches to order.
The process has several steps, most manual, time consuming and although they guarantee a unique blend for each farm they also mean the coffee is sold far below the real cost of production. The coffee from Boutique farms is a labor of love and pleasure for the residents, many of whom are here retired from a previous life up north.
Most coffee in Boquete Panama is cherry picked one cherry at a time by Ngobe Indigenous. This means that only the ripe beans are harvested. There are usually three or more different pickings several weeks apart on the same farm.
Some farms then pulp the fresh beans to remove the husk which is used to make organic fertilizer. There are other methods used at other farms.
This photo is my neighbor Ralph manually removing the pulp from coffee cherries. This is a old and time consuming way to do what can be done by machine.
After the cherry is removed the coffee beans are collected on a tray. There are usually two beans per cherry. Then the wet beans need to be hand inspected. Damaged beans and any other foreign material is manually removed.
Coffee beans are then sun dried and need to age for at least six months before roasting. After storage they need to be processed one more time to remove a dry layer of parchment like material from the bean. The traditional approach is the use a large mortar and pestle. The large growers also have machines to do this manual task.
Finally after aging and a final cleaning the coffee can be roasted.
This small batch roaster can do no more than five pounds of coffee at a time. This slow, expensive manual processing is what make Boquete Panama Boutique Coffee unique in the world. Start with the best, treat it as something you savor and you get a superior and unique product.