Photo Essay: The Journey of Coffee in Rural Panama
In the past decade, Panama has succeeded in making its way into the international coffee scene.
While Panama does not produce as much coffee as some of the bigger players, such as Brazil, it has become famous for the quality of its Geisha variety of Arabica coffee. Most people who have heard something about Panamanian coffee probably associate the country’s coffee production with the region of Boquete and the surrounding Chiriquí highlands. But a lesser told story is that of the Robusta coffee that comes from some of Panama’s most rural communities.
Robusta coffee is a hardier type of coffee that does not rely on specific temperatures and elevations to be grown. While it is not of the highest quality, what it lacks in flavor, it makes up for in caffeine content. This is the type of coffee that most Panamanians actually drink. Most of the time, this coffee is not sold internationally. In some of the most rural parts it is not sold at all but rather grown as a sustenance crop. The remoteness of the communities that produce Robusta often makes access difficult for large buyers.
Despite not having access to larger commercial markets, rural Robusta farmers have creatively tapped into their local communities to make markets for themselves. Farmers have begun to work together to create directives and cooperatives to invest in equipment that an individual farmer would not be able to purchase on their own. They have begun processing coffee in groups and selling to their neighbors and nearby communities. But even getting to this point of production takes time, some personal capital, and a lot of dedication.
This is the story of one
group's beginnings - the organization of labor and the hand processed of coffee
before the machines. This is the story of Robusta
coffee grown in the rural indigenous community of Samboa.