Our last night in Bocas proved to be an interesting one and ended in someone telling us we could have a ride with his shuttle service for only $20 to Boquete - our next destination. This was $10 cheaper than anywhere else, and $10 is a big deal on our $30/day budget. We turned up when and where we were told and came to find out what we had feared: that perhaps this man at a late night food joint during the early hours of the morning wasn't going to pull through. Imagine that. We waited around for a bit in an office of sorts before someone finally asked what we were waiting for. We told them Bryan told us to be here at 10am for a ride to Boquete. Simple. He phoned his friend and we laughed as we overheard him reminding Bryan of his late night special offer.
Turns out he really did have a shuttle service. It also turns out it wasn't really in business yet, so we got a private ride in a brand new shuttle with him and his wife and baby. We also got an entire bench to ourselves and lots of room to spread out.
Boquete is in the mountain highlands of Panama. It sits at about 3,900 ft. and is therefore a refreshing break from the heavy heat of the coast. We could finally wear our jeans and sweaters we'd never touched once!
Because of it's climate, many crops are provided with ideal growing conditions. Coffee has especially become plentiful in this region and it's been deemed the Napa Valley of coffee, harvesting beans that have been judged to be some of the best in the world. In addition to coffee, the region boasts banana, avocado, orange and lime trees all over.
An awesome rock formation we passed on a hike
The Caldera River
A very old and very dilapidated bridge over the river. We crossed thinking it would take us to "the abandoned castle" we were in search of.
We found some bananas on the ground in a big cluster and grabbed some for fuel on our hike.
After many wrong turns and directions from just about everyone we passed, we finally arrived at "el castillo abandonado", or the abandoned castle.
The "castle" is flanked by eucalyptus trees and sits next to the river with mountains for a backyard.
One day we visited a nearby coffee plantation, Cafes de la Luna. We learned all about harvesting, roasting and farming in general. We also learned a bit about the economics and politics involved in the coffee business as well as farmers and workers.
Unripe coffee berries
When the berries are ripe they become red. They're ever so slightly sweet, but hardly have any juices. The seed is much lighter in color before roasting and has the texture of an barely cooked bean.
Drying racks for the berries
The outside of a building where farmers used to have to live when this farm was owned and run under different ownership. The conditions have changed at Cafe de la Luna, but are, unfortunately, still terrible for most workers around the world. In addition to horrible working conditions, the wages are disgustingly small and could never support the individuals and their families who work so hard.
This was full of dried berries with details as to where exactly the berries were harvested from, the date picked, the bed they were dried on as well as the percentage of...(to be honest I forget, sorry. It may have been in reference to the moisture levels within the berries...?).
They tasted a bit like a prune or raisin but not nearly as sweet.
After touring the farm, we had the chance to sample two different brews, a medium and a dark roast.
Marly & Melsie enjoying some fresh brews
After sampling some coffee we had the chance to watch the roasting process. I was deemed roast master.
Checking the color and progress after several minutes
The beans are roasted at a very specific temperature and different measurments and characteristics of the beans are monitored throughout the entire process. They are then released into this area above and spun about to cool off, as well as shake loose and discard any of the coating from the berries that was now crisp and separated from the bean.
Finally the beans are poured out and put into bins where they are later bagged, sealed, and shipped off to fancy coffee shops that sell it for a nice fancy price.
The time spent in Boquete was very relaxing. It's a sleepy mountain town within a valley of Panama's beautiful lush mountains. It is home to many expats actually, with most being from the U.S. and Canada. If you check it out you may want to stay awhile!