Contributed by: AnonymousKnown around the world for satisfying the most demanding palates, special coffees from Panama have earned a place in the international market with prices matching their quality and meeting the criteria of the most expert tasters.
About 30 members of the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama (SCAP) grow and export this precious product, and one of its finest varieties, the Geisha, has reached the cost of $374 per kg, the highest price in the international market.
Each year, producers make an international coffee-tasting event called "The Best of Panama", a competition in which judges evaluate international specialty coffee lots and they award the highest score to the winners, who then participate in a global online auction with buyers from the U.S., Europe, Japan and Taiwan.
On the high mountainous areas of the province of Chiriqui, located on the border with Costa Rica, around 400 miles to the west of Panama City, there are over 40 farms in charge of growing, besides Geisha coffee, other varieties of the finest Panamanian coffees, such as Pacamara, Catuai, Caturra, Bourbon or Typica.
Geisha coffee is the world's most recognized and the best priced coffee among the experts for its citrical flavor and floral and jasmine aroma, as well as its balanced acidity.
The Geisha variety was discovered in Abyssinia in southwest Ethiopia, in 1931, and was imported into Panama from Costa Rica in 1963, according to the SCAP, an association created in 1996.
The president of the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama, Plinio Ruiz Jr. said this variety was brought to the country because its leaves are resistant to rust.
Rust is a coffee pest caused by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix, which causes premature leaf fall of coffee and undermines its productive capacity, unable to perform photosynthesis.
The SCAP specifies that the main criteria at the time of choosing which variety should be grown are the grain quality, the production capacity and resistance to weather and pests.
Ruiz said through the introduction of the Geisha in the highlands of Boquete, in Chiriqui, one of the six mountainous areas of the province where fine coffees are grown, it was discovered that “the taste of this coffee was extraordinary."
"This is how it all began, then, electronic auctions were introduced in 2004 all around the world, and this is when the variety of Geisha as a special coffee was discovered, obtaining the highest price in the market," said Ruiz.
SCAP’s President highlighted that the total commercial coffee production in Panama reaches 28 million pounds (bags of 46 kg), in which special coffee represents 2% of this production.
However, he said the specialty coffee produce "a whole market noise" because their lots reach "exorbitant prices, ridiculously high, compared to commercial coffees".
Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, United States, France, Holland, Germany and the Nordic countries such as Finland and Sweden are the markets that pay the highest prices for coffee from Panama.
However, Ruiz said countries in the Far East buy the most because they have a palate adapted to identify very fine flavors from plants and can identify "very easily" high quality drinks such as specialty coffee.
In that regard, he assured the most requested coffee is the Geisha, out of the special coffees, which has reached the price of $374 per kg.
This week, the lots used to grow the Ironman coffee (washed Geisha coffee), Esmeralda Especial (Natural) and Pacamara Don Julian (traditional washed coffee) got the first place in its category at the XVII International Specialty Coffee Tasting Event, “The Best of Panama.”
Judges from the Netherlands, Taiwan, United States, Japan and South Korea chose among 46 lots of the best coffee in Panama, in a tasting that lasted several days and finally concluded on Wednesday in Boquete.
In the Geisha category, Ironman lot owned by the coffee producer, athlete and manager of the Panama Stock Exchange, Roberto Brenes, obtained the highest score with 91.7031 points.
The director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), Ric Rhinehart, said the quality of Panama’s coffee is higher every year and separating Geishas from other coffees "helps maintain the quality of the other varieties of coffee."
After this tasting event, samples are sent from the lots to be auctioned online on June 11 to the potential buyers who sign up for the auction, said Ruiz. (Prensa)