Let The Sun Shine

We’re now well into Panama’s rainy season with November being one of the “worst” months with the most rain. And we’re moving into the peak of the coffee harvest season. We pick, rain or shine, and the Gnobe Bugle workers are used to working in the rain, wrapped up in black plastic bags.

Coffee dry morn

Our gourmet Boquete coffee, which would sell in the States for $14-16 a pound, brings us in as growers about 35 cents a pound, gross. By the time you take out wages and fertilizer, not only are we . . . like other small growers in Boquete . . . not making anything, we’re losing money. Which is while several Panamanians we know are just letting their coffee farms go, because it doesn’t pay to pick the coffee. There are folks, like us, who would like to see the coffee culture in Boquete survive, but it is increasingly difficult for the little guy. So this year we are trying to process at least some of our harvest. And it is, as they say, “a learning experience.”

For the moment we’ve decided not to try and put a motor on our little depulping machine that removes the outer red husk of the coffee cherry, but to run the machine by hand. That’s working, but once the beans are removed from the cherry they still need to be washed, again we’re doing it by hand, and then dried. Without the big commercial dryers the big boys use, we have to revert to the traditional method of drying the beans in the sun, which actually produces better tasting coffee.

So just when the rain is heaviest, the sun is most important to us.

Even in the rainiest season, mornings in Boquete are usually glorious, then right now, about noon it starts to rain.  Morning is my favorite time of day in Palmira . . .  Palmira being the tiny town where we live, 1000 feet up the mountain above “downtown” Boquete.  There is something about the quality of light in the morning in Boquete that is magical.

Today promises to be a glorious, sunny day . . . at least until noon!

coffee dry a

November is when the pointsettia plants that line our long driveway are the prettiest!

coffee dry

Blue tarps in the driveway are excellent for drying coffee when the weather is nice.    The blue absorbs some heat, but not too much heat, which is what black plastic would do.

Coffee dry b

Coffee drying in wire racks . . .

coffee dry f

This is the good stuff folks!

coffee dry e

Nikki takes time out from coffee drying to work with Evangelisto, our Indian worker’s son, on his English homework.

coffee dry d

We dry coffee wherever we can, including the front porch!

coffee dry g

So keep the sun shining . . .  and keep your comments coming!  The next post, I promise, I will answer the mail!  In the meantime, I’m going to have a cup of coffee!  The coffee we’re drinking now is from last year’s harvest.  The green beans have aged, and we are having what we held out roasted in small batches.  The coffee we are producing now won’t be available until next year this time and will be sold as top quality “estate coffee” . . . completely processed by hand on our own farm the traditional way.

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