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Boquete, Panama’s coffee secret involves an American, the moon, and passion

September 9, 2009

It was not the first time I’d been on a farm. But it was the first time on a farm 1400 metres above sea level in a cool temperate climate, unbroken mountain panorama softened by a cloudy mist rolling in as the afternoon lengthened. What made it extra special were the trees, laden with slow ripening berries each containing a small green bean known by many as — coffee.  Coffee school in Panama’s popular Boquete region had just opened for the afternoon and I was the only student in attendance.

by Cate

by Cate

“The geisha is what gave Boquete, Panama its reputation in specialty coffee”– meet Rich Lipner owner of Finca Dos Jefres boutique coffee farm, and a dog named Lucky. He was my teacher for the afternoon. Passionate about coffee, Rich looked every part the modern day coffee grower from khaki cap to bright orange T-shirt to Croc’s foot protection.

by Cate

by Cate

His farm is small by local standards at around seven acres, but who could have guessed, with its abundant trees both coffee and fruits, stretching beyond the line of sight. While Rich showed me around, he spoke of the various species grown on the farm and his agricultural methods. His Cafes De La Luna blend is one hundred percent organic, planted in line with the moon.

Unlike other coffee growers in the Boquete region, Rich doesn’t discriminate — “I don’t separate my geishas” he told me.

My mind switched to genteel Japanese women tightly wrapped in priceless kimonos teetering in wooden shoes while carrying trays of fresh espressos — in groups. Japanese women and coffee was to me, a combination that didn’t seem natural. Green tea perhaps but not coffee — yes I was puzzled with the comment.

Quickly Rich put an end to my confusion.”That’s g-e-s-h-a, some spell it with an i but it’s incorrect. The gesha originated from Ethiopia. Have you heard the story about the origins of coffee?” he asked.

A light went on and the gesha with an i vanished. Of course we’re talking about beans and high altitude what else would it be?  And so our conversation continued with more stories and information freely handed out.

by Cate

by Cate

From bean variety, to the picking and drying process, Rich happily took me, a novice, on a  journey into the world of coffee — cupping, aromas and roasting. A full afternoon of caffeine lingo, talking and testing.  All done without opening a scientific book. Rich’s use of language and explanations were fully comprehensible. This school differed to the typical school because it was fun.

by Cate

by Cate

Walking around the farm and being introduced to his workers and dalmatian Lucky, it was how a good coffee tour should be. Relaxing, laid back but educational. Rich’s tours are fully interactive with lessons on defining aromas and taste, sampling  for flavour and — the best part — roasting beans.

by Cate

by Cate

The prize at the end was not only a bag of freshly roasted beans but also gained knowledge in coffee production and a newly developed sense for quality. Why suffer another instant when there is just so much better coffee out there?

by Cate

by Cate

Tour information

Rich does private tours only for individuals and small groups @ $30 a person. The tour takes between 2.5 to 3 hours and you get a pound of roasted beans. I highly recommend visiting Rich’s farm, he also has a guest house available and believe me when I say “it’s paradise!”

To get to Boquete  – take the yellow school bus from David bus terminal in Panama, it takes an hour and costs $1.45.

Rich is contactable by email: dosjefes (at ) gmail (dot) com  and pretty fast with responding.

Caffeinated Traveller

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11 Comments
  1. Rich Lipner permalink
    September 10, 2009 9:37 am

    Hi Cate,

    Thanks for a great story on our tour. Your coffee enthusiasm is inspiring. Two corrections to the review: Our finca really is small, only 7 acres; also each participant receives 1 lb of coffee as a part of the tour.

    Good travels,

    Rich

    Oops sorry corrections have been made. Thanks Rich it was a great experience to be done again sometime!

    Cate

  2. September 10, 2009 10:17 am

    What a caffinated traveller in a journey of caffeine fueled post.

    Great story!!!

  3. outi permalink
    September 10, 2009 5:42 pm

    Visited this coffee farm last spring. Seen quite many places and things on this planet and in my opinion this is THE place to go -you’ll love it! The tour itself was excellent, but another thing that impressed me, was the emphasis what they put on the well being of the local fellow workers and the ecological things. Dos Jefes is truly worth visiting – even all the way from Finland!

  4. September 11, 2009 10:08 am

    Rainfield – thanks for the comment, it was fun writing it.

    Outi – Yes there is a lot to be said about taking care not just of the plants but the people who work there. I’ve heard good things about Rich and he also showed it in his respect for his farm manager. I’ve also heard nasty things about other coffee farms and how they treat their pickers. Now I’m going to be more vigilant about where and how my coffee is sourced. Fair trade/direct trade is good but if the farmer doesn’t care for his pickers and uses chemicals then it’s not up to standard.

    It’s important to give a shout out to the good people like Rich.
    Thanks for your comments.

  5. September 13, 2009 5:29 am

    Hey, u’ve got a new blog look. 🙂 looks nice, though i liked ur previous image header! The coffee tour sounds interesting, and the parallel i can draw is a wine tasting i once did. but i hardly remember much- but at least i figured i like the sweets ones better than the dry ones! 🙂

  6. Zowie permalink
    September 13, 2009 8:16 pm

    You know I normally can’t stand coffee, but you do make me wonder if its more or less the type of coffee I try. I mean I can drink coffee with tons of condensed milk, but is that really drinking coffee vo? I guess I would like to know, is there a right way to drink coffee? Is there a difference in taste between organic and non-organic coffee? and if all coffee’s are bitter, how do you know which bitter coffee taste better? and how do you know where a coffee comes from just by taste?

    • September 14, 2009 6:25 pm

      Zowie – I think it’s how it’s brewed and drunk. It should be black not milky, smooth not bitter nor burnt. Maybe you need the right roast. Oh and don’t keep your coffee in the freezer or fridge. It ain’t good for it. Bitter coffee??? girl you have the wrong stuff and by the sounds of it bad stuff. Did you try any when you came to CR? Organic is like any other kind of organic farming but I don;t think it enhances the flavours. So how’s the preggie lady?

      Ms N – thanks and welcome back from your trip!

      Lauren – I too like motion it creates depth to the story. Well for me it does.

  7. September 14, 2009 10:37 am

    Great pictures, I like the close-ups of motion, I’ll have to try something like that. Great shots.

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