Monday, December 8, 2008


In order to understand and appreciate my unabashed glee at my success yesterday in winning a silent auction of a pound of Hacienda La Esmeralda gourmet geisha coffee, you really need a small lesson in Panama coffee. So, with acknowledgment to the various websites I perused, thus begineth your lesson:

In the land of the Panama Canal, bird-filled rain forests and world class fishing, lie coffee farms producing world class coffee. In Panama's highland region, the western province of Chiriqui, is the placid and wonderful town of Boquete. It is known as the "Valley of the Flowers and Eternal Spring." On the side 0f the Baru Volcano (over 11400 feet) near the border with Costa Rica, are some of the best, if not the best, Estate coffees in the world. The area has the perfect environment for growing world class coffee beans. The unique area receives winds from the north, known as the "bajareque," along with a light drizzle accompanied by a cool breeze. The best and highest ranking coffees in the world come from this region of Panama. The Boquete and Volcano Baru region's high altitude grown Estate coffees consistently outperform the rest of the world.

The highlands of Panama have the perfect combination of soil and environment in many microclimates to grow unique specialty coffee and as a result, Panama produces outstanding and very unique beans rated the world's best.

Why Drink Specialty Coffee? And Why Panama's?

The simple answer is: Because it tastes better. "Grown only in ideal climates and prepared according to exacting standards, specialty coffee possesses a richer and more balanced flavor than mass-produced coffee. Plus, it must pass a stringent certification process to ensure that it is free of flaws and imperfections." according to the Specialty Coffee Association. Specialty coffees compete in "blind" tasting competitions which grade each coffee to a standard. Although many of the finest specialty coffees from the top 15 coffee producing countries enter these contests which are judged by panels of international judges, Panama's specialty coffee statistically out cups them all.

Panama coffees are shade grown at the highest altitudes in the Chiriqui Provence of Panama. The farms have close working relationships with their Ngobe - Bugle native workers and strive to enhance the communities as well as the social, medical, nutritional and educational services available to their workers. There is great pride in the traditions that have led to the quality and taste generated by these traditions.

Traditions such as hand picking, washed, and sun dried are still practiced. The Ngobe - Bugle natives of Panama have been growing and harvesting coffee for generations. These Ngobe- Bugle know the correct selection of the mature cherry and have the manual quality control that helps makes Panama coffee so uniquely special.

Panama's Hacienda La Esmeralda gourmet “geisha” coffee, which has broken world price records in online coffee auctions, is now so sought after that the farm is planning its own Internet auction this year.

In a bold step never before attempted by a single estate, the farm in the cool highlands above Panama's western town of Boquete will put its entire crop up for bidding in a private auction, farm administrator Daniel Peterson said.

“We are going to auction all of the geisha together. This is the fairest form of exchange,” Peterson told Reuters in the warehouse storing this year's harvest, just 200 60-kg bags.

The farm's coffee is popular with high-end roasters and connoisseurs drawn to its sweet jasmine flavors that win the rare beans high scores at cupping events.

The coffee had cultivated a reputation similar to fine wines grown in specific regions, and is now one of the world's most expensive varieties.

Last year Hacienda's small lot sold at an unprecedented $130 per pound at the “Best of Panama” online auction, where bids were taken by telephone after passing the computer system's maximum price of $99.99 per pound.

Hacienda's Geisha was judged World's #1 Coffee at the Specialty Coffee Assn. annual cuppings in 2005, 2006, 2007 & #2 in 2008. Over 100 of the world's best coffees enter this competition. Panama Geisha (gesha varietal) coffee has been taking the coffee world by storm. It has also ranked #1 at the Panama Best of Panama competition for the last four years. It is like no other coffee. Very complex. It smells like jasmine, coffee blossoms with spectacular aromatic quality with hints of blackberry, mango, chocolate, nuts, lemon and more.

This coffee scores in the 94-96 range - about as good as you can get.

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If you have read this far, you should have an appreciation of the rarity and incredible quality of Panama's coffees, especially the Hacienda La Esmeralda Geisha. By the way, the Peterson's run a school for the workers' children, and a health clinic and daycare, as well.

At a charity auction/tag sale/social "do" yesterday here in Boquete, there was a silent auction at which two bags of Geisha coffee were up for bid. And I scored big time by winning one at about half its market value! In addition to that I was able, by participating, to assist four different charities here in the area.

"My" coffee will be ready in April, after harvesting, aging and roasting. If you come visit me, and are very, very nice to me, I just might brew you a (single) cup of the best - and most expensive coffee in the world.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Of Musicals and Missions

Last night, Thursday, Bob and I went to a performance of a musical review of the '60s performed by the Boquete Community Players. It consisted of original memoirs written and/or performed by local expat residents interspersed with music of the era performed by "The Boquettes" which was a girl group quintet of silver-haired ladies. It was a hoot and a half, and a wonderful evening. I enjoyed singing along with all the songs. In fact, I had such a good time that I am going to join the BCP and maybe even do some acting myself!

This morning I went over to the Mission for my first day on the "job". All the little children ran over to the car as soon as I tried to open the door. They just wanted to stare at me. My silver hair and pale skin are rare here.

I spent much of the morning filing medical records, but got one moment of "real nursing" when one of the little boys at the mission managed to split open his head when he fell from a swing. I cleaned the wound and helped Monica get things set up for the doctor. Then I got the job of holding the kid's head still while Alan (the doctor) deadened the area, clipped the hair, and sutured the wound. All the kid could do was to cry for his "abuelo" (grandfather). We got him taken care of and on his way.

I loved it.

Not that the kid got hurt, of course, but that I could do something concrete to help.

Then this afternoon, a newly-arrived couple that we met this past Tuesday came over to visit. Chi-Chi is a knitter who had sort of abandoned the craft, but when I showed her my "stupid simple" baby blanket pattern and explained that I am knitting baby blankets for the Ngobe Bugle Indian women who walk down from the comarca, or mountain wilderness, to the mission to have their babies, she decided that she wanted in on the fun. So I've loaned her a circular needle and supplied her with 3 skeins of Lion Brand Homespun and have created another charity knitter! Mwaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh hahahahahahaha! My plan is working!! Soon I'll have enough people identified to start a Sit 'n' Knit night somewhere in town.

The sun was shining this morning. Not just in the sky, but also in my heart.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Getting Back on the Horse - and other cliches

I have often thought that cliches are as overworked and overused as they are exactly because they are so fundamentally true. I have not posted in quite a while, and it is difficult for me to post today because I have not posted in quite a while.

Between the earthquake and the unusual rain system and the flooding and a broken tooth and Thanksgiving Day and a friend's return to the States for 2 months, I have been exceptionally down. Many days it was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning - and keep myself from crawling back into (or under) the bed before noon. I am better now. Not great. Not back to "normal". But better.

I am requiring myself to get out of the house 2 mornings a week to volunteer at one of the local missions. I am requiring myself to carry on the Chowder and Marching Society. I am requiring myself to "fake it till I make it".

I heard earlier this week that we had 57 inches of rain in November. Think of it like this: it rained an average of almost 2 inches a day. Every day. All month long. Or think of it like this: It rained 5 FEET 9 INCHES in November.

Bob informed me that, as of November 30, we had accumulated 219 inches of rain for the year. Again, think of it like this: OVER 18 FEET OF RAIN. In eleven months.

And they say that there is a dry season in January/February/March. I don't quite believe them.

In other news, we went last Saturday with our church to a feeding station that the church supports. We took gift bags for the 35 mothers who cook (over wood fires in cast iron kettles thankyouverymuch) for the almost 100 children who eat there daily. The Ngobe (or Ngabe) Bugle (or Bukle) Indians live in the mountains and eke out a meager existence on the land. All too often the meal provided at the feeding station is the only one the children receive each day. Anyway, Mother's Day in Panama is December 8, and we provided gift bags with cosmetics, toothbrushes, lotion and powder and other things for the moms.

Life is so hard for the women especially. They are often pregnant by 15, and have a baby every year or so. The grown women almost never smile, and the children rarely do. With my silver hair and glasses, I looked so different that several children were afraid of me, although after a while a little flirt of a boy and an angel of a little girl sat on my lap or leaned on my leg. (I wanted to bring about half a dozen of the little girls home with me to rescue them from a future of no education, likely abuse, and certain early motherhood.)

We are going back in a couple of weeks to bring Christmas presents to the children.

By the way, the feeding station is NOT the mission where I will be working 2 days a week. THAT mission is much closer to home, has a Bible Institute, sponsors many of the Gnobe Bugle children in school (by providing uniforms, shoes, school supplies, etc), and has a clinic. I'll probably work most with the clinic, depending on patient needs. I understand that the Indian women walk down to the mission clinic to give birth (Yes, you read that right: they walk down to the clinic while they are in labor), so I may get to practice midwifery. I'll let you know. (I hope to finish knitting the baby blanket I'm currently working on before assisting in a delivery, so I can give it to the new baby.)

I still have my down days. I still have my down moments. I still cry. But I am making a valiant effort to "Bloom Where I Am Planted" - a cliche with which to close this for now.