If you’ve heard of Panamanian coffee, you probably also know about geisha coffee, one of the most expensive coffee beans in the world. But geisha is not the only thing you will find in this country. There is undoubtedly a lot more to discover here.
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What is Panamanian coffee like?
To learn a little more about the properties of Panamanian coffee, we can start with its origins. So if we talk a little about the history of Panamanian coffee, we have to go back to the beginning of the 19th century. It was the European settlers who brought coffee to Panama during colonization. The first stop was in the province of Chiriquí, in the west of the country.
To this day, all of the country’s coffee is grown in this area. In this area, two indigenous peoples from the region were responsible for growing the first types of coffee. These are the Ngobe and Bugle tribes that still grow coffee.
Panamanian coffee is known for its quality, variety, and blends that go around the world. And it’s not just about geisha coffee, the most expensive coffee in the world that comes from Panama. In Panama, you can find other varieties at lower prices without sacrificing quality. Below you can see these varieties and the best coffees from Panama.
The country’s climate is ideal for growing different varieties. There is a lot of rainfall all year round and the shady crops are very productive. The coffee has a light body and is very pleasant to drink. It has medium or high acidity. But there are also varieties that have a very low acid content.
As to the aroma, you can smell jasmine and some citrus notes and with some other varieties also chocolate or vanilla.
As we always say, it is almost impossible to describe a single cup profile for a country that produces so many types of coffee. In general, Panamanian coffee is characterized by a sweet taste with many citrus notes of lemon, orange, or bergamot, as well as notes of dark cocoa. However, each variety has different flavors.
As we mentioned earlier in this article, different types of coffee are produced in Panama with different aromas, flavors, and bodies. Therefore, there is no uniform roast that is preferred in this country.
However, lighter roasted beans are very similar to tea. They are characterized by a mild aroma with notes of lemon and a sweet taste. A medium roast, on the other hand, has more caffeine than a light roast, has a more intense taste, and may have a slightly bitter aftertaste on the palate. Europeans prefer this roast, while Asians prefer coffees that are similar to lightly roasted teas.
How is Panamanian coffee grown?
The climatic conditions in Panama are very conducive to growing the best coffee in the world. Since there are many mountainous regions, the winds and fog that form here cause the fruits to ripen more slowly. While this results in lower productivity, it also results in sweeter coffee and better-developed flavors.
Harvesting the coffee beans is not an easy task. The terrain is slippery and in some places steep. However, coffee farmers make sure to pick only the best ripe beans one at a time from around September to December.
Most Panamanian coffee is washed. This means that the beans will be dried after the husk and mucilage have been removed. To remove this substance, the coffee beans are immersed in barrels of water for a few hours or days until it dissolves. All that remains of the coffee is the parchment and the silvery film that wraps the beans.
An important aspect of the washing process is that the coffee farmers use water from the numerous natural springs in the mountains so as not to affect the taste of the coffee. Usually, this is not very often the case in countries with a larger production.
As for the drying of the beans, the coffee is first put into rotating machines, the so-called Guardiolas, which dry the coffee with hot air. This is a simple pre-drying process. Finally, the beans are spread out on large plates and dried in the sun for a few days.
Coffee growing areas in Panama
There are mainly three coffee-growing zones in the country. These zones are between 1,000 and 3,000 meters above sea level and coffees with different profiles and flavors grow here. These three places are located in the Chiriqui province, the coffee-growing region of Panama.
As they are in the same province, there are many similarities, such as the harvest, which starts in December and ends in March.
|Location||Located in the west of Panama and north of the Chiriqui province.|
|Altitude||Between 1,000 and 2,800 meters above sea level.|
|Temperature||Between 13 °C and 24 °C.|
It is the oldest coffee-growing area in Panama. Most of the coffee farms in this area are located at an altitude of 1,600 meters above sea level. Due to the proximity to the dormant volcano Baru, the volcanic soil is rich in nutrients that are essential for the growth of coffee plants.
The climate in this area is rather dry. However, a constant mist forms, also called Bajareque, so that the coffee beans ripen more slowly. The result is coffees with a medium-high acid content and a medium-light body.
|Location||In the west of the Chiriqui province.|
|Altitude||3,475 meters above sea level. It is the highest point in Panama.|
|Temperature||Between 13 and 24 °C with an average temperature of 19 °C.|
This area is very privileged because of the rich volcanic soil. Also, the mountain region in connection with the characteristic climate of Panama is the ideal place for coffee cultivation. Although it is the highest point in the country, most of the farms in this area are between 1,200 and 1,500 meters above sea level.
In this area, the coffee grown has a higher acidity and body compared to the coffee from Boquete. It stands out for its strong aroma and is used for espresso mixes. The main variety grown in this area is Catuaí.
|Altitude||Between 600 and 1,350 meters above sea level.|
Much of the country’s coffee is also produced in this area. Together with the Boquete region, they are carrying out various studies to improve the productivity and quality of Panamanian coffee.
The coffee from this area is low in acidity and has a distinctive aroma. In addition, it has many floral flavors. Even the coffee from this area resembles some Dominican or Jamaican coffees.
Coffee varieties grown in Panama
Knowing the different types of coffee can help you learn more about their differences and choose the one that best suits your tastes. Also, if you learn more about how this variety behaves at a certain altitude and under certain climatic conditions, it will also bring you closer to the coffee process in this country.
If you’ve heard of coffee species and varieties, you’ve probably heard of Arabica and Robusta coffee as well. The Arabica variety has always been synonymous with higher quality compared to Robusta. The truth is that each one is used for something different.
Robusta coffee has a stronger and very similar taste in all types of coffee of this variety. It also contains more caffeine. Because of this, it is widely used for instant coffee. In contrast, Arabica coffee does not have a uniform aroma. Each variety, each region and each company feature different flavors and acidity levels. Within this type, there are very sweet and mild coffees, while others are much stronger and more flavorful.
Now that you have a broader overview of the types of coffee, let’s take a look at the most important varieties and their most important properties in Panama:
It is a type of coffee of the Arabica genus that is known worldwide. The boom is recent. It started in 2004 when it was featured in the Best of Panama competition and took first place in several categories. Even today, it is still the most widely used by baristas in tasting competitions for the best coffees in the world.
The taste of this coffee is surprising, it is very aromatic and floral. Because of the way it is grown, it is a sweet coffee with fruity notes of papaya, peach, pear, pineapple, and orange. Also, it smells of jasmine, peach, and orchids. As for the taste that remains on the palate when you drink it, you will notice citrus notes of bergamot.
Another special feature of this coffee is that it is neither sour nor bitter. It is similar to the taste of many teas, which together with its aroma makes it very popular, especially in Asia.
Although the Geisha variety originates from Ethiopia, it is better known and more representative in Panama. In addition, other Latin American countries such as Costa Rica and Colombia are also starting to grow this variety.
This variety formed the basis for the development of many other types of coffee. It is the oldest variety in Panama.
This plant is tall and therefore not very productive. However, it is of high cup quality. The fruits of this variety are elongated and oval, and the acidity of this coffee largely depends on the altitude at which it is grown. If it is grown at very high altitudes, the acidity is higher. It also has a citrus and floral flavor with a slightly sweet aftertaste.
This variety is the result of a mutation of the Bourbon variety, another well-known variety in Panama. It is a high-yielding plant because it is not as tall as other varieties and is much bushier. That is, the distance between the branches is shorter, so the Caturra tree has more primary and secondary branches than the Bourbon or Typica.
The cup coffee of this variety is characterized by a lower acid content with citrus notes of lemon.
Another very common variety in Panama and around the world. This variety is the result of crossing the Mundo Novo and Caturra varieties. This type is amazing because of its “genealogy”. First, Mundo Novo is the result of a Typica mutation and Caturra is the result of the Bourbon mutation. Catuaí thus shows the characteristics of many varieties.
The plant is rather small and has long side branches that make it look like an umbrella. This plant is ideal for climates with a lot of rain and wind, as the fruits do not fall off easily. It is a high-yielding plant and its profile is very similar to that of the others. It has medium acidity with citrus tones.
This variety is very similar to Typica. They resemble in height and shape, only the bourbon is a bit bushier. That means it is about 30% more productive. This variety may not be very high-yielding if grown at the wrong height. However, most cherries are found between 1,200 and 2,000 meters above sea level. This is also Panama’s average altitude.
The cup coffees of this variety are characterized by medium acidity and a dense body. The quality is very good, similar to Typica and Geisha. In the end, a sweet taste remains on the palate, which makes it a very balanced coffee.
As mentioned earlier, Mundo Novo is the result of crossing Typica and Bourbon. The best place to grow is at higher altitudes as it is more productive there. It is also very resistant to the most common coffee diseases.
Unlike most Panamanian varieties, this one is not sweet and has a slightly bitter taste.
It is the result of a cross between the Pacas and Maragogipe varieties. Not so well known, they were created by the Salvadoran Coffee Research Institute (ISIC) in 1958.
The fruits of Pacamara coffee are characteristically very large compared to other varieties. The cup of coffee of this variety is different from the ones we’ve seen so far. Its body is dense and thick, with flavors of various spices, chocolate, and citrus fruits. Lots of different flavors that balance well with a hint of sweetness. In the end, there is a creamy aftertaste of chocolate and spices.
What makes Panamanian coffee so special?
The country has been growing coffee for more than a century, and its history testifies to the vast experience it has in growing coffee. Although Panama is not one of the early producers or exporters of this product, they consider the quality of each individual bean to be more important than mass production of not-so-good quality. It is not for nothing that they have the most expensive coffee in the world.
The flavors that you can experience in each of the Panamanian coffees caught the attention of coffee lovers. Since it is a small producer with an ideal environment for growing coffee, each of its varieties does not go unnoticed.
- The country has microclimates that allow different types and profiles of coffee to be grown.
- They have a coffee heritage that has been passed down from generation to generation with very traditional growing methods and others with very advanced technology.
- The coffee farmers know that their goal is quality. They are always looking for ways to learn and experiment with new growing methods in order to achieve the highest quality standards.
- Lately, the country is moving to sustainable farming practices to protect the environment and get more certifications for coffee like fair trade and organic.
- Many Panamanian communities have made it their mission to work on the plantations during the coffee harvest to support local groups and offer one of the best wages for coffee farmers in Central America.
- Thanks to the Panama Canal and two other ports, it is very easy to export the country’s coffee around the world.
The 9 best coffee brands in Panama
Now that you know more about growing coffee in Panama, let’s take a look at some of the best coffees from Panama so you don’t miss the opportunity to try one of these.
Smokin Beans Coffee Boquete Green Coffee
Tasting notes: Brown sugar, milk, chocolate and cashew nuts.
This green coffee is grown in the Boquete region. It is a mixture of the varieties Caturra, Catuaí and Typica. It is a washed coffee grown on farms between 1,158 and 1,890 meters above sea level.
You can buy this coffee in a package for £ 2. The packaging has a freshness valve so that it stays fresh longer.
This coffee has a creamy body that goes very well with the sweetness that characterizes it. In addition, it has a very low acidity content for lovers of the mild coffee.
The good thing about buying green coffee is that you can roast it depending on the profile you want. We invite you to read our coffee roasting guide to find out how the taste of coffee changes depending on the degree of roasting.
Hayman Geisha Coffee
Tasting notes: Mango and tangerine.
Roasting degree: As desired.
The brand offers different types of coffee from Brazil, Ethiopia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Hawaii and Panama. Their geisha coffee is one of the best.
You can buy it as green beans, roasted beans, ground, or in capsules. A wide range of presentations to suit your taste and needs. It comes in a nifty box for 100 or 200 grams.
It has a very fruity taste and fragrance. The characteristic jasmine scent of geisha coffee is also present in this product. It has a medium acidity that lingers in the mouth with the taste of bergamot.
Don Pepe Estate Pacamara Coffee Beans
Tasting notes: Chocolate and sweet onion au gratin.
Roasting degree: Medium.
This coffee is grown on farms between 1,680 and 1,750 meters above sea level in the Boquete region. They own 59 hectares of coffee plantations on which they cultivate varieties such as Geisha, Java, Bourbon, Caturra, Catuaí, Typica and Pacamara. This last variety was developed by the Salvadoran Institute for Coffee Research.
It’s a little-known coffee so finding it is a real treasure. It has flavors that you won’t easily find in other coffees. It has a medium acidity, which goes very well with the sweetness of the chocolate. In addition, it has a creamy body that feels buttery on the palate.
Coffeebean Boquete Coffee Beans
Tasting notes: Fruity and nutty.
Roasting degree: Light.
This coffee is grown on the Baru volcano in the Chiriqui province at the highest elevations in the country. Due to the altitude, the beans ripen more slowly and have more time to develop fruity aromas. It is a sweet coffee with very fruity notes and very little acidity, which makes it soft and ideal for any moment. It also has a sweet, caramel and nutty aroma.
Finca Casanga Coffee Beans
Tasting notes: Nuts and chocolate.
Roasting degree: As desired.
This farm is located in a small area in the Boquete mountains. Specializing in growing Arabica coffee, it offers a unique experience for coffee lovers. This company not only sells coffee but also their rich experience in growing a coffee tree. That means you can “rent” a coffee tree and watch it grow and be tended by the farm’s experts.
You also have the option to choose the degree of roasting and receive a certificate on the tree you have chosen. You can see all the growth, flowering and harvesting of this tree in real time. A new interesting proposal that you can buy from anywhere in the world.
Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC Coffee Beans
Tasting notes: Brown sugar, tangerine and nut butter.
Roasting degree: Medium.
This brand cannot be missing when it comes to the best coffees. This coffee is grown on the Lerida Estate coffee farm in Boquete. It is one of the longest existing coffee farms in the country and is located between 1,200 and 1,650 meters above sea level.
This export product is a washed and sun-dried coffee that is roasted and packaged in the United States. In addition, all coffees from this brand are certified as kosher.
It has medium acidity with a very sweet taste that gives it a good balance. It has several flavors that make it fruity and citrusy. First comes the sweetness of the sugar, then a dry, nutty taste and finally the acidity of the tangerine.
Kaffee Boquete Floreal der Marke Airis Coffee
Tasting notes: Chocolate, citrus aromas, almonds and caramel
Roasting degree: Medium.
This coffee is grown on a farm in Boquete called Casa Ruiz. In 2001 they won the award for the best coffee in the world, and even today they are successful in various competitions such as Best of Panama. This farm is responsible for the cultivation of this coffee blend, which produces many flavors and culinary experiences. It is very rich and balanced with a sweet taste at the end.
Something worth mentioning is that a complete table is shown in the packaging, which explains which grind you should use depending on the brewing method you’ll use. For example, how it should be ground for an espresso and how it should be ground for a Turkish coffee. It also shows you how the taste and profile of the coffee in the cup are optimized for a specific grind and brewing method.
This is a great advantage if you’re just starting to grind your first coffee beans and don’t know exactly how the beans should be ground for each infusion. Another difference in this coffee that takes it to the top is that the beans are roasted in hot air for a cleaner coffee and more even roast.
Janson Family Gourmet Coffee Beans
Roasting degree: Medium.
As you know, there are many Panamanian coffees that are blends of different types. However, this coffee comes from a single source. It is grown on the Baru volcano, an area very favorable for growing coffee. It comes from a small farm in the region, which carries out handcrafted and meticulous processing.
Panama Coffee Gold Geisha Coffee Beans
Tasting notes: Fruity with notes of blueberries, raspberries and flowers.
Roasting degree: Medium.
They are grown in the Boquete region. It is a natural coffee, which means that it was dried together with the fruit, i.e. the whole coffee cherry was dried in the sun and then pulverized. This means that the coffee takes on these floral and fruity aromas during the drying process. Coffee Review magazine voted it 11th among the best coffees of 2015.
This coffee has intense acidity and is very aromatic. Like all geisha coffees, it is characterized by a very floral and fruity taste. It’s sweet, very balanced and exotic. Although being very acidic, it has a very soft mouthfeel.
Café Duran Traditional Ground Coffee
Tasting notes: Chocolate.
Roasting degree: Medium.
The history of this company goes back to 1907 and was founded by Esteban Duran, a Spanish settler. It is a large company that produces, roasts, and exports coffee. Today it is the largest roastery in the country. This traditional coffee is very popular in Panamanian households. It is grown in the Boquete area, an area known for its excellent coffee quality.
You can find this coffee in bags of 22, 212, 425 grams, or 5 pounds. It is a blend of the two most popular coffees in the world, Arabica and Robusta. It is ideal for making espresso, latte or cappuccino, as it has an intense taste and a soft body.
Although we chose this traditional coffee for the top, the brand offers a wide range of gourmet coffees with different flavors and profiles so you can find and buy your favorite.
If you have not had the opportunity to try some of the best coffees in Panama, this is the ideal moment to discover more than just Geisha coffee.
And if one country’s coffee is not enough for you, we have more recommendations: