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When I think of Boquete, Panama, I think of 3 things:
2) Hot Springs
3) Lush green forests
Now, not being a huge coffee drinker, it never dawned on me, until I visited the place, that Boquete produced some of the best coffee in the world.
The lush green mountainous setting makes this place the ideal setting to grow coffee beans (and apparently strawberries too), which is why I just HAD to try the Geisha coffee, one of the most expensive coffees in the world.
What do I mean by expensive?
$25 a cup. Eat your heart out, Starbucks! That makes your $7 coffees look like chump change!
I know what you thinking. “BUT BUT BUT, FIRECracker, that’s not very FIRE of you! Why the hell would you drop a big wad of cash on something you’re not even a fan of?”
And if I had lost my damn mind and actually dropped $25 on a cup of coffee then you would be correct.
BUT, after walking around the whole town, I managed to snag a, tiny, shot glass-sized cup of the precious liquid for the princely sum of $5.
Take that, establishment!
So, was the Geisha coffee all it’s crackedup to be? Did one sip turn me into a magical unicorn, sprout wings and fly into space? Because I would expect nothing less from $25/cup coffee.
It just tasted like good, strong coffee. It was better than the watery coffee I usually get from Starbucks or Second Cup, but was it the best coffee I’ve had? Nope. I suspect someone with a more refined coffee palate would appreciate it more than I did, but for me, my reaction to such an expensive $25/cup coffee was a resounding “Meh”. My favourite and most memorable coffees will always be found in European cafes, but I suspect that may have to do more with the act .of sitting in a historical cafe that’s been around for hundred of years and just enjoying the people watching around me more than the actual coffee itself.
Now, that being said, even though I wasn’t blown away by the Geisha coffee, I was blown away by how much work it took to produce coffee and how much work goes into picking and roasting the perfect bean.
Just like tea harvesting in Malaysia, labourers toil from 10-12 hours a day, picking the red cherries from coffee plants for a measly $1.50 USD a day.
After that, the fruit passes through a “flushing machine” that separates the sinkers (good fruit) from the floaters (rotten fruit, sometimes with insect parts).
And the scary thing? The floaters aren’t throw away, but sold to other producers who grind them up and use them for instant coffee. So apparently, think about that, the next time you open up a packet of instant coffee at a hotel. Blegh.
After separating the fruit, the beans still have to be extracted from the cherry, fermented for 20 hours, washed, dried, aged, and sorted.
Then it’s off to be roasted into different stages…light roast, medium roast, or dark roast.
Even though we’ve been brainwashed to believe dark roast has the most caffeine, it’s actually the opposite. The lighter the roast, the higher the caffeine level. And not only that, light roast is actually SUPPOSED to look and taste like tea…so whatever light roast you’re getting at Starbucks, it’s over-charred.
From this coffee tour, we also discovered another thing Boquete is known for…
Specifically a place called “Fresa Mary” where I managed to inhale an entire strawberries-and-cream dessert in 5 seconds flat. I felt bad for not giving any to Wanderer, so I bought him a strawberry milkshake to make up for it. Luckily, he said it was the best milkshake he ever had.
After all the dairy and sugar, we decided to work it off by taking a hike along what the locals call “the Pipeline trail”, on account of the fact that it literally follows a pipeline up a mountain, and is considered the best warm up trail before you head to the “stairmaster” trail to see multiple waterfalls.
On the way, we spotted this weird-looking bird, called a “Quetzal” , which is this green and red colored long-tailed bird that bird-enthusiasts or “bird-nerds” are constantly on the look out for but have a difficult time spotting, and somehow we saw it on the first try.
The more hiking we did in Boquete, the more I was reminded of the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. Except one thing Boquete had that we didn’t find in Cameron highlands was outdoor hot tubs…
Like this one, in the backyard of our hotel, with a massive mountain and clouds as our backdrop.
Or this one, a natural thermal spring, in the middle of the woods where you can chillax and feel all the tension your leg muscles just melt away:
With all this lushness, delicious strawberries, fragrant coffee, scenic hiking, and deeply relaxing outdoor thermal water, I was beginning to understand why Boquete has one of the biggest communities of foreign retirees in the world. So many that if you didn’t speak a word of Spanish, you wouldn’t have any problems at all. Everyone spoke English there. In fact, our Airbnb host was one of them, a Canadian who moved there more than 10 years ago, and never looked back.
And having seen the view from our AirBnb I wouldn’t have either:
Or tasted the food (which was surprisingly international):
Having spent a very reasonable amount in the 6 days there we were there, I could totally see myself moving to a lush green oasis like this.
|Cost in USD/couple
|Cost in CAD/couple
|We stayed 2 nights in a hotel with a hot tub with the mountains as a backdrop and then 4 nights at an self-contained AirBnb suite in the mountains overlooking the city. Both had amazing amenities we would go back for in a heartbeat."
|$32 CAD/day ($26/day for eating out, $6/day for groceries)
|There were lots of international food options (Greek, American, Mexican, Brazilian, Italian) so you'll never get bored and the prices were fairly reasonable too. Our favourite place to grab a quick bite to eat was El Sabrosón, a cafeteria style restaurant with well-priced, tasty Panamanian food .
|The bus from Panama City to David (town near Boquete was surprisingly comfortable at a cost of only $15.25USD each. Even though it took 6 hours, the time flew by and the roads were very safe. After that, we took a bus to Boquete from David (a 30-45 min bus ride) for only $1.75USD each. Overall, we enjoyed bus transport in Panama and found it to be quite safe and conformable.
|The only entertainment we spent money on was $3 USD each entrance to the pipeline trail. There was a free coffee museum at the Tourist center that explained in detailed how coffee was made.
What do you think? Would world-class coffee, international food, and outdoor hot tubs tempted you to this little green slice of Heaven in the Panamanian mountains?
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