Following my stay in Medellín (catch up on Cup 3 here), I decided to detour my summer a bit and take a week-long trip to Panama, which unexpectedly led me to Costa Rica. The whole idea of this summer adventure was not only to learn but to source some of Latin America's most exclusive coffees and it only made sense to seek out Panama's best Gesha coffee (an extremely exotic variety of the Arabica coffee plant). After a few calls, I was fortunate to be connected with Ninety Plus Coffee in Volcán, Chiriquí, Panama. I left Medellín's Rio Negro Airport in mid-July 2019 and was off to another crazy adventure.
When I arrived in Panama, I found an Airbnb and immediately started figuring out how to get to the northern Chiriquí region of Panama. I decided it would be best to take a 6-hour bus ride rather than fly to Volcán the next day. The bus ride gave me a chance to see the Panamanian countryside and experience a routine traffic stop by Panamanian police, during which I was given an odd look for having an American passport. After a day full of buses, I finally made it to my next Airbnb in Volcán and was finally able to start what I came to Panama for...finding Panama's best Gesha! 3 days after my arrival into Panama, I was given a full tour of the Ninety Plus Gesha Estates and what a treat that was.
Ninety Plus Coffee was founded by Joseph Brodsky in an effort to promote strong environmental and social sustainability standards in coffee through reforestation efforts and fair wages, similar values to what Global Origins believes. To put things into perspective and given their name, they are known for producing high-quality geisha coffees that consistently score over 90 points for their quality. During my tour, I learned more about what makes Ninety Plus Gesha so special and so sought out. After the tour, I was lucky enough to cup their current offerings and was blown away by the quality of this coffee. This experience proved to me that Gesha's are worth every penny all while giving me hope for the future of coffee.
After my experience at the Ninety Plus Gesha Estates, I realized how close I was to the Costa Rican border. So what idea popped into my head? I spontaneously hopped on a bus across the border to San Jose, Costa Rica! I scrambled to figure out my next move, and within a few hours I found myself walking across the border and on another 6-hour bus ride to San Jose. While traveling to San Jose, I had to rearrange my itinerary with a new Airbnb and a new flight from San Jose to Panama City prior to my return to Medellín. It was very interesting to be traveling by bus through Central America as I had some interactions with numerous migrants who were eager to make their journey to their promise land while some passengers thought it would be best to line up that “white powder” on the bus.
I arrived into San Jose later that night, my father arranged a meeting with his Costa Rican colleague, Luis Diego, and he kindly guided me through San Jose to my Airbnb. After some much needed rest, the next day I was fortunate enough to get connected with another one of my father's colleagues whose family owned a coffee finca, Cafe Don Edwin y 4 Mujeres, located just outside San Jose in a town called Alajuela. Martha Cordero of the finca kindly greeted me, showed me around, and explained to me the different processes they focus on. What caught my attention was their natural affection for the environment and their organic approach to coffee cultivation. Like most of Costa Rica, they developed an environmentally sustainable approach not only in their methods for cultivating coffee but also the way they live their lives.
Meet Martha of Cafe Edwin y 4 Mujeres.
While my time learning more about the Costa Rican coffee trade was short, I headed back to San Jose to close the day. The next day I decided to take a day trip to Jaco Beach. I figured since I was in Costa Rica, might as well visit a beach because "Pura Vida". Right? During the hot and humid day trip to Jaco Beach, again on a bus, I found myself zip lining in a protected rainforest and caught a glimpse of the daytime beach party life of Jaco. After another adventurous day in Costa Rica, I was back in San Jose and enjoyed a night out with Luis and his wife before heading back for my final few days in Panama City.
When I returned to Panama City I was then greeted by another one of my father’s Panamanian colleague, Roberto, who gave me a fantastic tour of Panama City and made time for us to watch vessels cross the Panama Canal at the Miraflores Locks. Along with this little tour, I also found some time to visit Casco Viejo (the colonial part of Panama City).