In a few years Panama has become an important player in the international coffee industry. Our small country chose quality not quantity. Specialty coffees continue to break records for being the most expensive in the world.
In 2018, Elida Geisha Green Tip Natural, achieved a price of $803 per pound. This coffee is produced by Lamastus Family Estates, one of the farms I visited in La Cosecha.
According to a study by the financial firm, Indesa, coffee has an impact of $212.2 million annually on the Panamanian economy. Although the industry has great challenges to overcome, the growth potential is incredible. Panama has consolidated as a tourist and gastronomic destination driven largely by its coffee beans.
Jorge Chanis is ‘El Buen Diente’ (The Good Tooth)
Jorge studied at Cordon Blue but did not finish the course. He says he is not a chef but he has a passion for gastronomy. His blog is called “El Buen Diente” (The Good Tooth in English) which means someone who eats well. It is formal but also informal in its way of being. He currently has a “gastronomic playground” for cooking classes, events and private dinners. You can have lunch at La Mesa between 12 and 2:30 p.m. from Tuesday to Friday.
8 years ago he started doing events in the capital but they were always replicating traditions or products of the interior. Jorge’s family is a native of Las Tablas, so he made an event called “Buena Matanza” to rescue a gastronomic tradition of Azuero. He then focused on the sugar cane crop specifically for rum production. Every year he makes a contest called “El Buen Tenedor” where he awards prizes to restaurants and national producers. Four years ago, he decided to concentrate his efforts on promoting Panamanian coffee internationally as a tourist product.
La Cosecha is Born
At that time there was no product around coffee. Currently, apart from its annual event called La Cosecha, there is a Coffee Circuit. The initiative of the Tourism Authority of Panama created a route consisting of 18 coffee farms in the province of Chiriquí. These farms are between Boquete, Tierras Altas and Renacimiento. Several have participated in La Cosecha.
Jorge confesses that he is a wine lover and usually visits vineyards during the harvest. He thought that more people are passionate about coffee than wine and why not create a similar experience. The idea was maturing while getting the endorsement of coffee growers.
For the first two years La Cosecha was simply a media event to have the product well structured. A minority of the media which attend are specialized in coffee. Most promote gastronomy and lifestyle. Some of those who attended in 2019 were the Standard Magazine, Food & Wine, Zagat, Michelin, Matador Network, among others. You could only participate in events and tours with invitation. The media evaluate the event at the end to make improvements. From the first to the second version there were many changes.
The good news is that in 2020 the event will be open for the public to participate. He plans to launch packages 4-5 months earlier focused on luxury tourism. Simultaneously it will promote experiences organized by the farms and an event in the town.
Chocolate, the new venture of Kotowa
One of the La Cosecha stops was to the newly opened chocolate shop in Boquete. Ricardo Koyner, its owner, named the store for his daughter Victoria who says got him interested in chocolate. Kotowa owners have always specialized in coffee but they think that chocolate is similar. Both can have different flavors that vary from fruity, floral or nuts depending on the process and variety.
The panamanian Cocoa is planted in the province of Bocas del Toro for 4 or 5 years. They do the whole process from planting, drying and fermentation to the final product. They are doing tests with 23 varieties of cocoa. Some are used to make milk chocolate while others are for dark chocolate. They plant in a way that is friendly with nature. A peculiar practice they do is removing gluten from cocoa.
Ricardo says that Panama has incredible potential with cocoa, since it can be planted throughout the country unlike coffee. Soon they will offer cocoa tastings in the store to taste the different flavors they have.
A meeting of chefs
Panama was not far behind, with the participation of internationally recognized chefs. The farms invited chefs to cook on site. Patricia Miranda of Cerro Brujo in Volcan was the only chef from Chiriqui who participated with Carmen Estate Coffee.
Mario Castrellon and his group of Maito cooked lunch in Gran del Val of the Fernandez family.
Avi Barak was the chef of the dinner at Haras Cerro Punta sponsored by the Eleta family that participated with their new Auromar estate. The farm is named after the owners’ daughter, Aurora Brenes Eleta, who organized La Cosecha with Jorge.
Boquete Brewing Company made a beer with Auromar geisha husk especially for La Cosecha.
The closing event was in Casa Grande Bambito, La Cosecha 2019 host hotel. This magnificent event was attended by Chef Andres Morataya of Panga Restaurant in Playa Venao.
If you are a lover of good gastronomy and coffee, I recommend you to be paying attention to participate in the next version of La Cosecha in 2020.
Air Panama flies to David Chiriqui from Marcos A. Gelabert airport in Albrook. On weekdays it has three frequencies and on weekends only two. Reservations in www.airpanama.com