Monday, July 23, 2012

Finca Milagrosa and Casados in Boquete, Panama

I should start this post by saying that I just quit coffee. I think today is my sixth day coffee free. (But not totally caffeine free. Green tea has been my stand in.) Boquete is a mountain town in the interior of Panama known around the world for its crisp clean air, expat retiree population and coffee.

We went for a tour of Finca Milagrosa in the high altitudes of the surrounding mountains early one morning. This finca, like several others in the area, has a high enough altitude to specialize in Geisha coffee, known as the second best coffee in the world. We learned about the production process from tree to cup. It takes five years for at tree to bear cherries, and when they turn red like a cranberry during the winter months they are ready for harvest.
Most cherries contain two coffee beans, but the ones that contain just one are of a better quality. The cherries are picked and peeled by the hands of the indigenous Nobe people who come to the area for the harvest each year and are paid between $9 and $12 a day. 
The beans must sit to dry for some time, and then they are peeled further and sorted. Before they are roasted they look like the green below. I learned that the longer the beans are roasted, the darker they become in color (obviously) but also, the weaker in caffeine content they become. SO, it might be time to change up that strategy in the office every morning, eh?
Chickens had their run of the farm as well and we were able to buy five fresh eggs to use for dinner later. I love eggs. After our tour we randomly met Randy, an expat retiree from Texas, who offered to drive us around the upper areas of town in his truck for a quick tour, fo' free. (He didn't seem to have serial killer potential.) Perfect. 

He showed us his beautiful home and guest houses with a view of the Pacific through the mountains, and his orchid filled coffee fields. He showed us a unique rock formation on the side of Volcan Baru that people come from all over the world to climb. He told us about an abandoned, half built castle next to the river that an old Italian woman still will not part with after her husband and son both died before finishing it for her.  He also told us where to catch the Bajo Mono trail at the top of the road to hike to the beautiful White Rocks waterfall. The next morning Em and I hiked through the rainforest to the soundtrack of howler monkeys and running water. Meeting this one friendly man really helped us  make the most of our time in Boquete.
We fell in love with Boquete for a lot of reasons: the fresh air, cheap, local produce, beautiful natural setting, and the cheap food. We had casados at Restaurante Nelvis and also at Sabrason and enjoyed delicious pollo frito, ropa vieja, arroz con pollo, and bean and potato sides for $3 or under per plate.  We also ate bangin' falafel one night at expat run Mike's Global Grill right on the river near Refugio del Rio where we were staying.
Before we left Boquete, we spent half a day lounging in natural hot springs in the near by area of Caldera. We got to play with a friendly monkey, Chita, while switching between the hot baths and a cool, nearby river. We left Boquete the next day feeling refreshed and ready to lay on the beach for a few more days on the island of Boca Brava before returning to Panama City for our flight home.

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