This weekend i went to Boquete and took a tour of the Cafe Ruiz coffee plantation and processing plant. All you ever wanted to know about coffee in four hours. The guide was a local Indian who had started out picking the beans with his family. He now speaks excellent English, has an Italian wife, and drives an SUV.
|I stayed at Suenos del Rio Hotel this trip, overlooking the river|
All coffee originated in Ethiopia, where the goat herders noticed the goats got pretty wild after eating the plant. After detours to Kenya and Tanzania, it came to Costa Rica and then to Panama in the 1960's. It was initially not considered a success due to low yields, but Panama coffee is now famous due to the flavors, depths, and aromatic qualities that can be found here, specifically in the highlands of the province of Chiriqui, where I live. Starbucks has put us on the map.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of coffee growers here. Cafe Ruiz has a few processing plants and takes beans from independent growers and cooperatives to process over 6 million pounds of coffee beans a year. The outer husks are removed and the beans dried and sorted for size and quality. I learned that the not so good beans are used for decaffeinated coffee, which was disappointing. Also, the darker the roast, the less caffeine, which was opposite of what I thought.
|Old coffee grinder|
|Starter plants sorted by variety|
|Beans taken off the bush have a sweetish taste|
|Bagged for shipment|
|The taste test|
Cafe Ruiz owns lots of land, but the home plantation is valued at $4 million. The price of land is escalating in Boquete, and it is worth more if it is developed. The owner is 92 years old. His children work in the business, some of them in sales in America and Europe. He will leave it up to them to decide if they want to continue the business after he is gone.
I bought some Geisha coffee beans grown locally. This is the most expensive coffee in the world, going for $98 at the annual online coffee auction. I was told that people came from Ethiopia to buy some beans to try to re-establish the coffee industry in that war torn country. Life is a circle.
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