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Boquete Coffee: The Demand for Coffee in Chiriqui

Chiriqui Province supplies most of the coffee in Panama. It is also home to one of the La Esmeralada Geisha – one of the most sought-after coffee in the world that recently fetched $130 per pound in an online auction.

In Boquete, quality comes first in coffee production. The coffee production in Boquete and in Panama as a whole is but a drop in the proverbial coffee cup. And there's good reason to keep it that way. The demand for Boquete coffee in the world market is on the rise. Major players like the Hacienda La Esmeralda are planning to increase production. But that won't still be enough to meet demand.

Boquete has a complex landscape with different micro-climates. The specialty coffee that commands the high prices are the ones cultivated by small coffee farms and are not really mass produced. Even in Hacienda La Esmeralda, the production of the highly prized geisha is just a fraction of their total production.

The best tasting coffee are grown in the higher altitudes. Shaded coffee trees grow good tasting coffee but this also means less harvest per tree. The pay-off is the increased value of the specialty coffee.

There are some environmental issues that arise with the increased demand of Boquete coffee.

  • Mass produced coffee are grown in farms where there's direct sunlight. The direct exposure to sunlight stimulates coffee trees to to produce more coffee cherries.

  • Gourmet coffee lovers could distinguish the difference between these mass produced coffee compared to those harvested in specialty farms.

In other words, not all Chiriqui coffee is made equal. The common coffee consumer won't be able to distinguish the difference between specialty coffee and the mass produced versions. This issue has been discussed even by environmentalist as mass production of coffee in Boquete could affect the delicate balance of this tropical paradise.

The traditional coffee production system involves planting coffee trees under the shade of taller trees. The shaded coffee production system provides shelter for birds and other animals. Thus, environmentalists understandably favor the traditional planting method.

Labeling could help consumers distinguish between shade-grown, environmentally produced coffee in Chiriqui from the mass produced ones. An acceptable standard is still to be agreed upon but progress is on the way.




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