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My father had once crossed at the same border crossing on foot years ago, and had warned me about how people in uniforms will try to fleece you for money, claiming that you need to pay certain “charges” and “premiums”. It’s all a scam, and in the case of actual officials that do this, extortion.
I warned Matt not to make eye contact with anybody as we crossed this border for the first time. Nothing could have prepared us for the procedure that followed…
In Central American countries, you do not simply enter a new country – you must formally exit the country that you were in. The office to leave Costa Rica is about a quarter-mile from the office through which you enter Panama. In between these two offices is bedlam. People moving in all directions, mainly migrant workers and those visiting family on the other side of the border.
Panama customs officer: “You cannot enter Panama until you exit Costa Rica.”
Costa Rica customs officer: “You must pay to exit Costa Rica at the machine in that room.”
Panama officer: “This receipt that shows you paid to exit Costa Rica is not enough. They must stamp your passport.”
Costa Rica officer: “Don’t wait in this line. Wait in that line.” (30 minutes later)
Fortunately for us, there is only one instance of an official trying to fleece us. As we walked one of the many times to the Panama customs office, I looked up just in time to make eye contact with a man in the uniform. I immediately dropped my eyes and picked up the pace. I could hear him yelling after us about having to give him so many dollars to get by. The irony is that he was just sitting on steps with another person who was not in uniform, before we came along. Despite the uniform, we pushed forward waiting for the giant hand of the law to grab our shoulders. But of course, this was no formal fee and we were under no obligation to pay it, despite all his yelling after us.
After crossing into Panama, we stayed in the city of David and from there, traveled into Boquete and the coffee country that surrounds it. We toured coffee farms, and even had the opportunity to interact with farmers and their employees at work in the fields and in the processing facilities. For the coffee lover, it was a phenomenal experience. We even met locals in David who became fast friends and invited us to their family reunion. It was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life!
When I began sourcing coffees to roast at the Make Good Coffee Co., I was so excited to get my hands on coffee that came from the very same region that my friend and I toured.
Central American coffees are prized for their brightness, and I was excited to perfect a medium roast of this coffee. If it is roasted too dark, much of that brightness is lost, replaced with the smoky flavor that characterizes dark roasts. I roast my Panama Boquete coffee lighter than any other coffee. The result is a strong flavor of berry and other natural fruit flavors, coupled with some chocolate and caramel. The aftertaste is sweet and clean. The body smooth and creamy, and not too heavy.
Of all the coffees that I currently roast, this one is easily one of my favorites. It was an incredible experience to make our way to coffee country in Boquete Panama, without guides or the experience of having done it before. I truly think of this adventure each time I roast this coffee, and I know you will taste the difference that care puts into each cup. This is a coffee drinker’s coffee!