What Boquete Can Teach the World about Coffee

The Community Behind It

by Diego Bodart

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Boquete is a small valley in the Province of Chiriqui, Panama bordering Costa Rica.

I was blessed to visit a family home in this magical town every Christmas—a breath of fresh mountain air.

As I grew up, Boquete grew exponentially, displaying homes for Hollywood actors, expat communities, and specialty coffee bars at every corner.

Boquete's unique microclimate, characterized by soft breezes and consistent light rain showers (known as "Bajareque" to the locals), has taken the coffee world by storm. Most experts who have enjoyed the “World’s best coffee” attribute it to Boquete’s unique climatic conditions.

However, upon further observation (and with the help of some family perspective), I woke up to an entirely different micro-environment influencing Boquete’s coffee success.

Community.

Boquete hosts an engaging community of coffee producers. Family-operated farms border each other for miles along colorful mountain roads. There is an air of bloodline competition, beautifully tempered by shared nationalism, that creates a dynamic push and pull between individualist efforts and collaborative distribution of farming techniques.

This community drives each family to innovate creative methods and reach for the highest standards of quality. My family, which has owned and operated a coffee farm for over 60 years, has created our own branded coffee. Alongside this came increased interest in how the industry works.

Each year, families meet to test their coffee and brewing skills in a derby-like competition hosted by SCAP (Specialty Coffee Association of Panama) an association that vows to promote the development of specialty coffee in the region. The winners connect to premium buyers that flock from Australia, Taiwan, Japan, and the Netherlands begging to pay upwards of $1,000 per pound.

While a happy Japanese businessman flies back home, relishing over his $1,000 pound of coffee, Colombian neighbors face a coffee crisis. There, coffee sells as low as $0.98 per pound from farms that deliver twice the production of the entire Boquete area.

Digitizing the unique social climate found in Boquete could push the entire agricultural industry into the age of information. Monetizing knowledge could become a thing of the past.

Engaging global digital communities would drive the industry towards collaborative practices that level the playing field for producers willing to put in the effort.

Producers Market aims to create digital solutions where producers can connect, share knowledge, and educate each other towards higher levels of possibility.


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