A visit to “La Milagrosa” Coffee Farm, a must-thing-to-do in Boquete, Panama

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"A visit to “La Milagrosa” Coffee Farm, a must-thing-to-do in Boquete, Panama".

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A visit to “La Milagrosa” Coffee Farm, a must-thing-to-do in Boquete, Panama

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Panamanian Coffee – how many non-coffee experts know about it? We all might have heard about the coffee from Costa Rica, Colombia, Brasil or even Java. But have you ever heard about coffee from Panama?

An incredible 2,25 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide every day (at least that is what Wikipedia says). But how much do we know about the production of this dark brown liquid that so many of us need to get out of bed every single morning? Do we even know what a coffee tree looks like? I didn’t before I came to Boquete and needless to say I didn’t even think that much about the coffee I drank every day.

Nowadays, even though I don't claim to be a coffee expert, I am able to enjoy my coffee a lot more. Here I am enjoying a delicious cappuccino at Café Ruiz Coffee Shop in Boquete
Nowadays, even though I don't claim to be a coffee expert, I am able to enjoy my coffee a lot more. Here I am enjoying a delicious cappuccino at Café Ruiz Coffee Shop in Boquete

Boquete’s fresh mountain air and micro-climates, with lower temperatures than most other parts of Panama, as well as its proximity to Panama’s largest volcano, Volcán Barú (volcano ash makes soil very fertile, even if it has been hundreds of years after the last eruption), make Boquete the perfect place for growing what is known as specialty coffee.

Ever since my first visit here I found out a lot more about the local coffee production – it is really important for the local economy, and there are many prestigious Fincas located in the mountains surrounding Boquete. I visited three of them already and took part in two coffee tours. There are many big and wealthy coffee Fincas here, such as Finca Lérida and Café Ruiz. I took part in Café Ruiz’s coffee tour when I first got here, but only a few weeks ago I visited a little gem – a small coffee farm called Finca La Milagrosa (The Miraculous) with Explora Ya.

The hills of the valley of Boquete are filled with coffee trees
The hills of the valley of Boquete are filled with coffee trees

This Finca is very special because it is one of the many small ones in the area and yet it is very successful on its own. Most small farms don’t process their own coffee and sell it to the larger estates. Almost all of the coffee produced by La Milagrosa is for export and throughout the years La Milagrosa has won many prestigious international awards. All of this despite the fact that Don Tito, its hard working owner, had to start his business all on his own without any financial backup – that is where the name of this farm comes from: it’s a real “miracle”.

From a very young age Don Tito knew that he wanted to become a coffee producer and when he had saved enough money, he bought his very own piece of land. From day one he worked very hard, until several years later, he got his first coffee plants.

Don Tito made all of the equipment to process the coffee on his own, including these roasting devices made from motor parts of his old truck
Don Tito made all of the equipment to process the coffee on his own, including these roasting devices made from motor parts of his old truck

Nowadays the whole area is full of coffee trees of all different kinds and if you visit Finca La Milagrosa during harvesting season (November – February and sometimes even later during the year), you will be able to admire each tree loaded with red and yellow berries (actually they are called cherries here). I was especially surprised to see the yellow ones because I had only seen red coffee cherries before.

Our guide explained to us the physical differences of the trees (depending on the variety of coffee). All of Don Tito’s coffee trees are from the “Arabica” family, which produce better quality coffee as opposed to “Robusta” beans, which grow better on lower altitudes. Some of the coffee varieties that Don Tito has on his farm are: Caturra, Catuay, Pacamara, Borbón, Geisha, Novo Mondo and Típica. Some trees are loaded with leaves, others have branches that have so many coffee cherries on them that you might fear for them crashing down. The density of cherries and leaves helps to distinguish them, as well as the color of the leaves, the height of the trees, and many other factors.

When you walk around Don Tito's coffee plantation, you can literally feel the love put into this farm
When you walk around Don Tito's coffee plantation, you can literally feel the love put into this farm

The cherries have several layers, and once you crack open the first lawyer (red or yellow) you will be able to see the white fruit pulp and then the little beige coffee bean. You can actually taste the sweet extra layer when you suck the bean. It’s not recommended chewing the beans as they're quite hard but feel free to have a go ;-).

Another highlight is the wildlife on the Finca – yes you heard right! This coffee farm works organically – no pesticides or chemicals are used here. Instead, birds are attracted by the sweet smell of the fruit trees that Don Tito has planted here and there, which will keep them from munching on the coffee trees themselves. And as an added bonus, these birds will also eat many insects providing even more protection to the trees. There are also chickens, that fulfill the same purpose (and on the other hand provide Don Tito with fresh organic eggs for breakfast) and geese that work as watchdogs (try to not get too close to them!).

At the end of the coffee tour you will visit the little house that Don Tito and his few workers use to separate the different beans (by size, density and quality), store them and roast them. A small percentage of the beans are also grinned here, ready for consumption (yes, you can buy fresh coffee here) and the rest is packed for exportation. And, of course, you will also get a few beans to chew – for the real caffeine boost, and a cup of freshly brewed coffee handed out by Don Tito himself, if you are lucky.

Don Tito's Coffee Tour with Explora Ya is quite hands on and leaves you wanting to drink specialty coffee every single day for the rest of your life
Don Tito's Coffee Tour with Explora Ya is quite hands on and leaves you wanting to drink specialty coffee every single day for the rest of your life

For me this tour is definitively a must do in Boquete, because it is a small and intimate one with many details you might not get to see on other coffee tours and Don Tito makes a great effort to keep it nice and personal.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT BOQUETE, THE IDEAL PLACE TO LEARN SPANISH IN THE MOUNTAINS… »

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Search our blog if you're visiting Panama! From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss, you'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while in our country! We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years and nothing beats local knowledge from the locals themselves.


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