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Coffee in Panama -- Reprinted from Newsroom Panama

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Coffee in Panama

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In 2004, a Central American farm left an indelible print on the coffee market. That year, beans revealing a distinct jasmine aroma won the Best of Panama competition. The Peterson family, owners of La Hacienda Esmeralda in the Chiriquí Province, submitted a lot from an unusual variety they’d found growing on their farm. Identified as the Geisha/Gesha cultivar originating in Ethiopia, the delicate, bright cup with its singular translation of high-altitude volcanic terroir would go on to break records for the highest scores and highest prices ever earned for beans at auction. The Lamastus Family would eventually carry the torch, inviting enthusiastic consumers — like wine lovers flocking to Bourgogne — to peek inside the insular world of coffee cupping. 

“As a professional and well-trained taster, I cannot say Panama’s coffee is the best, but it’s special,” says Wilford Lamastus, Jr., a multi-generational owner of Lamastus Family Estates. “However, I can say that the international judges believe it’s the best, and the auction market has agreed,” he adds. To taste all the fuss, here are two ways to explore Panama’s coffee culture. 

Panama City

Start the journey at Sisu Coffee Studio, the most sophisticated café in Panama City’s Casco Viejo, or old quarter. Opened by the Lamastus family, Wilford Jr. has spearheaded the estate’s mission to educate and embrace consumers. He modeled the minimalist vibe of the studio after cafes in Scandinavia. (Sisu is Finnish for perseverance). Visitors can order pour overs of Geisha (spelled with an “i” in the U.S., but with an “e” in Panama), savor tender pastries from chef Ariel Zebede, and book a cupping class, the coffee equivalent of a wine tasting. 

Down the street, Zebede runs the diminutive A to Z restaurant which offers a seasonal multi-course tasting menu of Panamanian products, including coffee. This hidden, speakeasy-style restaurant accommodates 14 guests at the chef’s table on select nights. Zebede serves eight-day fermented Elida Estate Geisha with a dessert course and as a digestif. 

Don’t overlook Casco Viejo’s elegant hotels for great coffee, too. The new Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo has a strong program, offering Panamanian French press in its guest rooms and Café Vera. Tiempos Cafe at the stylish American Trade Hotel serves pour over Geisha, while La Panaderia, the bakery and coffee shop at historic hot spot Hotel La Compania, sources from Finca Lérida in Boquete.  If you want some really nice coffee, stop into the Haven Spa in Boquete pictured below. Coffee is always being brewed fresh.




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