One of the biggest reasons we took a family vacation to Panama in 2023 was to take a coffee tour in Boquete.
That may seem like a crazy reason to visit a country, but my brother-in-law and sister invested in a coffee company in Boquete. Understandably, they wanted to see their investment in the field.
You certainly don’t have to invest in a coffee farm, to be interested in taking a coffee tour in Boquete, though. As it is one of the top activities to do in the region.
As coffee enthusiasts, we loved getting to learn the history and process of growing coffee something we had very little idea about before this experience. And I certainly gained a new appreciation for all that goes into a delicious cup of coffee each morning after taking a tour.
If you’re interested in taking a coffee tour in Boquete, Panama here’s everything you need to know about the experience. From where to book a tour, what to bring, and what to expect.
The best place for a coffee tour in Panama
Latin America has long been revered for its coffee-growing abilities. As of 2023, Latin America grows around 50% of all coffee globally each year.
It’s not a huge surprise considering coffee grows in almost any area that has a warm tropical climate. But quality coffee needs elevation and nutrient-rich soil to really thrive. Two things the mountains of Chiriqui have in large quantities.
Most people are familiar with Costa Rican coffee (which makes up around 1% of globally produced coffee). But few people realize Chiriqui, where the majority of Panamanian coffee hails from, is just an hour and a half from the Costa Rican border.
The similar growing climate makes it a perfect place to grow coffee. This is due to the rich volcanic soil in this region and Chiriqui’s position between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
The areas surrounding Boquete and Volcan (about a 2 hours drive from Boquete) have the largest concentration of coffee fincas in the country. The abundance of coffee plantations makes it a clear winner for taking to take a coffee tour in Panama.
The history of coffee in Panama
Up until recently, Panama was often outshined by its neighbors Colombia, Costa Rica, and Peru who produce the bulk of Latin American coffee. But today, Panama is world-renowned for growing far superior, tastier coffee than most of its Latin American counterparts. ☕️
To understand how Panama became a world-famous coffee-growing region, we have to look at its history.
Coffee was first introduced to this region in the 19th century by European immigrants. The beans are mostly Arabica beans and have done incredibly well since their first introduction to Chiriqui.
Arabica coffee is known for being dark, bold roasts (my favorite), with diverse tasting notes depending on the varietal. Since Boquete has a unique microclimate that includes lots of rain, high elevation, and cooler temperatures, it’s perfect for growing specialty varietals including like:
- San Ramon
While all of these varietals are amazing (and worth trying on a trip to Boquete), the Geisha bean is what made Panama world-famous. This varietal hails from Gesha, Ethiopia, and was introduced to Panama in the 1960s.
The Geisha bean tastes a lot more like tea than an Arabica coffee. It’s subtle in color, soft on the palate, and has floral notes with hints of citrus fruit. It’s absolutely delicious and something you have to try when visiting here.
Panama created the Speciality Coffee Association of Panama (SCAP) in the 1990s, entering its Geisha varietal into competitions. After winning several awards for the Geisha beans’ uniqueness and quality, Panamanian Geisha is now one of the most expensive coffees in the world.
For reference, a bag of Gesha coffee grown in Panama can cost a consumer around $30 to $40 or more for an 11-ounce bag. Expect a single glass of Geisha coffee to cost around $10 to $12 USD. When it comes to green unroasted beans, some coffee buyers have paid upwards of $4,000 for a single pound of beans. 😳
While Gesha helped Panama get on the map as a world-class coffee producer it’s not the only reason it stayed there. Year after year, Panama continues to win awards for its different varietals.
The best coffee tour in Boquete
There really isn’t a single best coffee tour in Boquete. There are many different fincas, or plantations, you can visit within a 10 to 20-minute drive of Boquete town center that will give you a great understanding of the coffee growing process.
However, some of the more popular coffee tours in Boquete are below:
- Finca Lerida – $35 USD per person (as of 2023). This is also a gorgeous hotel.
- Cafes de La Luna (Finca Dos Jefes) – $30 – $35 USD per person depending on the tour selected.
- Finca Casanga – $35 USD per person (as of 2023).
- Finca Dos Pepes – $30 USD per person (as of 2023).
- Damarli Estate – Price not listed. Contact them on their site to learn more.
Looking for more fun tours in Panama? Check out some of the most popular tours here.
When is the best time to go on a coffee tour in Boquete
It’s always a good time to go on a coffee tour in Boquete. But if you’re looking for lush green trees filled with red ripe berries it’s best to go between late November to February (Panama’s dry season).
If you’re coming to Boquete in October or early November be ready for the most glorious smell lofting across the region thanks to the coffee blooms. These flowers are reminiscent of jasmine and have the most incredible scent.
We went during the rainy season (April – October) and still really enjoyed the experience. Although should definitely pack a rain jacket and wear mud-safe shoes. There’s a good chance if you visit in the rainy season you’ll get rained on during the tour!
What to expect on a coffee plantation tour in Panama
We took our coffee tour with AgroNosotros, a private coffee and chocolate company that has ownership of over 800 acres of coffee and chocolate plantations across Panama and parts of Belize. Since my sister and brother-in-law are invested in the company, we were able to take a private tour at one of their sixteen fincas.
The farm we visited was about a 15-minute drive from Boquete downtown. We had to take a series of windy roads to a remote farm high up in the mountains of Chiriqui.
We were shocked that it took only took about 5 minutes outside of town before we started to see coffee trees in every direction. And we’re even more shocked to see how quickly this area gains elevation.
The tour began by walking the coffee farm.
Our guide, Andres, offered us a walking stick to traverse the very steep terrain here. I wasn’t sure if I would need it since I’m a very experienced and able hiker. But I was certainly glad I had it as we got into muddy and steep sections of the trail.
Andres explained the coffee growing process from sapling to production. We saw some of the workers, who reside on the farm in company-provided housing, preparing the soil for planting new saplings. We couldn’t believe how rich and dark the soil looked.
He continued to explain that this was from the volcanic activity in the area. This mineral-rich soil often needs little to no amendments and is abundant in nutrients vital to growing food and other crops, like coffee.
The saplings are planted in succession which allows them to harvest plants consistently over longer periods of time. Then they are monitored for pests and sometimes trimmed or treated with supplemental nutrients or pest control to ensure they reach maturity.
It can take anywhere from a year to five years for a plant to start producing coffee.
Andres shared how quickly a plant produces depends on the amount of rainfall, the average temperature, sun exposure, and other microclimate impacts in the years after the saplings are planted.
For example, when we visited in 2023 Panama was experiencing a Super El Niño. A year marked by an extremely dry climate and cooler weather. So, Andres adjusted his planting schedule to factor in this dryer season on the farm.
Every plant looks a bit different. Certain varietals will have larger leaves with different shapes to them than others. While other varietals will produce larger beans compared to smaller ones on other plants. Our guide continued to point them out to us and we were surprised by how quickly we were able to identify each plant as we were walking.
The red coffee fruits are harvested from mature trees between December and March. The fruits are picked daily based on ripeness and are then sent to be processed at an offsite facility.
AgroNosotros has in-house machines to help sort the beans by size, and washing the beans (removing the husks) can be done mechanically or naturally. Once washed, the beans are dried and then re-tested for consistent quality.
That’s when the beans are bagged and set to age anywhere from several weeks to several months depending on the varietal in a humidity and temperature-controlled area. Some coffee farms will roast the beans in-house selling it directly to consumers. But most sell green beans (unroasted) to global buyers.
Selling green unroasted beans was the primary goal of AgroNosotros, but it now has its own coffee shop, The Perfect Pair in Boquete. Which roasts select varietals making them available for purchase under its coffee brand, Cuatro Caminos.
Is Panamanian coffee good?
After we toured the farm we went back to The Perfect Pair for a coffee tasting. Unsurprisingly, this was our favorite part! We loved getting to taste different varietals from our skilled Barista, Ruben. We were blown away by the flavor of Panamian coffee and can in fact vogue that Panamian coffee is not just good, but incredible!
With specialty coffees, how the coffee is brewed, is equally as important as how the bean was grown and roasted.
A skilled barista like Ruben can extract flavors in the cup by using tools like the coarseness and consistency of the grind, the temperature and ratio of water to the ground beans, how the water is poured on the grounds, and the amount of time applied for the brewing process.
Through the varying skills and techniques used by the barista, a whole spectrum of flavors can appear. From floral to chemical and anywhere between.
Ruben made us several different coffees to try using a copper pour-over and ceramic V60 with three different beans. We couldn’t believe the different flavor profiles between each. You definitely need to do a side-by-side comparison between the beans and the brewing process to really appreciate this.
We had an absolute blast on our coffee tour in Boquete, Panama, and highly encourage anyone who is visiting this area to experience it themselves.
Hopefully, this guide helped you have a better idea of what to expect on a coffee tour, learn who and where to book a tour, and more about Panama’s unique coffee history.
CHECK OUT MY OTHER BOQUETE PANAMA GUIDES
- Caldera Hot Springs: A Must-Do Activity Near Boquete Panama – One of our favorite activities from our entire trip.
- Your Guide to Hiking El Pianista Trail in Boquete, Panama – A great hiking guide if you want to venture into a cloud forest.
- A Complete Guide to Hiking The Lost Waterfalls Trail – A great hiking guide for one of the top hikes in Boquete.
- 10 Must-Do Activities in Boquete, Panama – The perfect travel bucket list to help you plan your vacation in Boquete.