Exploring Panama & the coffee culture: these are our experiences.

Exploring Panama & the coffee culture: these are our experiences.

Jan 18, 2024
Panama is a small country that connects North and South America, bordered by Colombia to the east and Costa Rica to the west. Located 9 degrees north of the equator, Panama is home to the Panama Canal.
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Last year, we traveled to Panama City for a weekend, just an hour's flight from Medellin. We wanted to explore a country bordering Colombia and a different continent, Central America.

Panama City, like many cities in the region, blends old and new. It has an old part called Casco Viejo and a newly developed area filled with tall skyscrapers. The currency in Panama is USD, but sometimes you may receive change in their own currency, Balboa.

Coffee in Panama is grown in the highlands of Chiriqui, a province in western Panama. Bordering the Pacific Ocean, just 3 hours from the Caribbean Sea and near the Costa Rican border, Chiriqui is a 7-hour drive from Panama City. It's one of the most productive provinces, known for its climate and fertile soil, making it Panama's breadbasket.

Upon arriving at our hotel in Panama City and sitting down for breakfast, we noticed they served Colombian coffee. However, it was commercial coffee, not the special kind, and didn't taste particularly good. We were disappointed as we had heard that Panama produces excellent coffee. They do, but we hadn't had the chance to taste it yet.

Panama is renowned for cultivating one of the world's best beans, Geisha, the most exotic coffee globally. The flavor profile is clean, wonderfully floral, with the perfect level of acidity. The complexity of flavors ranges from fruity mango, peach, raspberry to hints of bergamot and jasmine. Geisha has a natural sweetness unmatched by any other coffee variety.

We were excited to explore the city in search of the legendary Geisha variety. After a day by the pool during the hottest hours, Panama is HOT, and daytime adventures with small children can be challenging, we ventured into the old town for food and the best coffee Panama had to offer.
As always, when traveling anywhere in the world, David and I start searching for the best specialty coffee our destination has to offer. Unfortunately, there wasn't much information about Panama City. Eventually, we found Unido Coffee Roasters with a cozy cafe in Casco Viejo. They served a variety of coffees for us to enjoy in any brewing style we desired. However, Unido Coffee Roasters was mostly frequented by tourists from North America and Europe, not as many locals as we find here in Medellin.

The coffee tasted quite good compared to the hotel coffee we had in the morning, but unfortunately, not more than that. As residents of Colombia, home to the world's best coffee, we have rather high standards, and Panama's coffee cannot (yet) be compared to the Colombian coffee, which has a much longer history of coffee production. However, we believe in Panama and would gladly return to savor more local coffee varieties. Three days were simply too short!
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