Thursday, May 26, 2011

Coffee Tour Boquete 26 May

We had been told by a guy at a tour office that Cafe Sitton coffee growers and processors
located on the continental divide, with a spectacular view to the Pacific ocean in the distance
offer tours for just $3 per person. Since other coffee producers charge upwards of $30 we decided to try our luck at a tour in Spanish for a fraction of the cost. Felipe was our guide and he was smashing. Together we managed just fine and reckon we had a far better interactive experience 'cos it was so much fun trying to make ourselves understood!
Here are some photos of the process of getting coffee to your cup. It all starts here, in the mountains where the best coffee beans are grown
After flowering
the fruit sets
and when it is ripe
in December after about 8 months of growing, it is picked. Local Mestizo Indians usually provide the labour. Ramon agreed to pose for a photo
and was quite tickled when we showed him a picture of himself! The fruit is soft at this point and if you squeeze it, the bean pops out covered in a soft moist coating which actually tastes quite sweet. Once the bean is harvested, it is put through a machine which removed the pulpy exterior, this is then used as fertilizer. Next the bean is soaked in water for 24 hours then dried and the husk removed
This husk is used to build the fires along with logs
to warm the bean driers, and also as a fertilizer.
Once the bean was dried, it was put into another machine to be dehusked
and bagged
The next step is to 'classify' the beans. This is done using a vibrating machine,
which sorts the beans into premium grade on the left
a secondary in the middle and third grade to the right (which tends to be smaller and has lots of brown dried husks with it) both of which will be re-sorted separately.
Then the bean is bagged up and sent to Panama City to be roasted or the green bean is exported, all over the world
Although Cafe Sitton only grows a small amount, it is a processing point for many small Fincas locally. Naturally we bought some coffee from Rafael, for ourselves to enjoy
Then it was off for a taste of the bean-an espresso of course
Here is a painting depicting the coffee producing process. It is very colourful and somewhat romantic, but in no way conveys the labour intensive hand picking necessary in baking heat, being attacked by flying and crawling insects
Philipe our guide
was fantastic. He took us around the processing plant and talked us through the detail of the process. He was patient whilst we formulated questions and answers, and we really enjoyed swapping stories about music and travel. Thank you Felipe.
After our coffee tour, we strolled around another small garden/exhibition/market area on the banks of the river
The colourful dots in the distance are mum and daughter washing and drying clothes
Although the temperature here is around 80F it is winter and the flowers are just going over!
David said he wanted to have a ride in the flower cups, but I had to tell him they were just seats!
Next we took off before the rains started, for another scenic bike tour further up into the mountainous jungle
Although Boquete is a strange little town, lacking the colour, vibrancy and bustling atmosphere often created by street vendors, cafés, tourist shops, usually found around town squares (the town square in Boquete is currently under some reconstruction), it does though seem to provide most of what you might need to buy. It is certainly very popular with Americans, who apparently flock here to buy Fincas, and buy/build the biggest houses you ever saw in your life for two retirees! But the bonus rather like Plymouth in Devon UK (also somewhat spare in atmosphere, due to major rebuilding post WW II) is the location. Nestled in at the side of the Caldera River, in the highlands of Panama, Boquete is surrounded by cloud forest, and it has to be one of the most mystical and beautiful places we have visited. Just a few minutes over the bridge and out of town and you are transported to another space in time.

The heavens opened to pour her bounty on us at around 12.30hrs so we dived for cover and lunch and to spend the afternoon updating the Blog and preparing to leave for somewhere else in Panama, (possibly Ocu on the Peninsula de Azuero to buy David a woven hat, a replacement for his Panama that flew out of the top box at Volcan Arenal!) tomorrow morning.

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