Panama has become known as one of the premier coffee quality production centers. The combination of diverse climate, highly educated producers and small production allows for some of the highest priced coffees in the world.
CQI worked extensively in Panama through the coffee corps program from 2003-2006. In the more remote, indigenous areas, the focus was on production and processing and training in cupping to understand quality. These remote areas continue to struggle to obtain better prices, but there has been some improvement in quality and consistency. In the areas surrounding the Baru volcano, the producers have much more access to infrastructure and the international market and this is where the remarkable achievements have been obtained.
Coffee Corps volunteers such as Ric Rhinehart were involved in early cupping competitions in Panama and as a result of this, the now famous Geisha variety was flushed out of a cupping session. This Geisha variety now goes for up to $300 a pound and the discovery of it is what put Panama on the specialty map.
This phenomena of variety differentiation for quality was known but not fully developed at that time and since then, Panama has set the precedent for this. The work of CQI is evident all over Panama from the producers to the high end coffee shops. Panama has very competent people who have been able to take over all aspects of the coffee industry, although there is still some need for assistance in the more remote areas.