Restaurante Maná has started serving and is a local distributor of Rancho Gotta Coffee. I have tried it and I liked it and I finally bought a bag. While talking to Jorge of Restaurante Maná, he asked if I would like to go to Boquete and visit the coffee farm.
Our last outing to visit a raspadura factory was so much fun, that I quickly agreed. Last Sunday we drove up to Boquete and met with Yosi and Arnoldo, who own and operate Rancho gotta.
We arranged to meet at the Boquete square and I had time to take couple photos. You can see that the square is still in the improvement stage.
On Sundays there are usually several vendors that have stands setup.
In a short amount of time, Yosi arrived and we followed her up to the farm.
Rancho is located in the Jaramilla area of Boquete and became a coffee farm in 1985. At an altitude of about 3900 feet, it is covered with 100% Arabica plants and the rich volcanic soil is provided with about 118 inches of rain yielding a very rich coffee bean.
This ECO OK coffee farm uses no pesticides and manages the ecology to provide the 40% shade that these plants require. It was interesting to learn about the tree trimming that they go through to insure the proper amount of shade.
Here are some of the coffee plants.
The following photo is looking west, down onto Boquete.
This photo shows that some of the coffee is ready to be picked and some that isn’t. Yosi said that picking the coffee requires four passes to get the coffee at just the right time.
I had always thought that all coffee had red cherries. I was surprised to see these yellow ones. When these are ripe they are yellow, while those in the other photo are red.
Here is a photo that Arnoldo sent me of coffee during the 2008 harvest. Arnaldo said the harvesting period was October to February, and the export time was March – April.
This is the first time I ever picked a coffee cherry. It is very sweet and an enjoyable fruit and contains caffeine itself. This is the photo of the coffee bean from the cherry I just ate.
I may return again some time to do a little picking, just so I can say I have done it.
While Rancho Gotta has been in existence since 1985, it only started doing it’s own roasting about three years ago. After the harvest, the cherries are delivered to a processor that extracts the beans and sorts them into three categories. The bagged coffee is then returned to Rancho Gotta for roasting.
Currently the majority of Rancho Gotta coffee is exported to Germany. On the average, they ship about 35,000 pounds a harvest. Last year was closer to 38,000 pounds. All coffee that is exported is shipped raw. It is roasted in the country that receives it.
Yosi, said she would like to see all of their coffee consumed in Panama. It is always good to have a goal.
Here is a photo of the three different coffees that are sold by Rancho Gotta.
Creolle, in the center, is coffee that has dried on the plant and has a very good flavor. Here is a closeup of the coffee that you see in the center bag.
Special, on the right, is the next category and a step up. Yosi said that this is the coffee that makes great cappuccinos. Here is a photo of those beans.
The Premium, on the left, makes the best espresso. You will notice that the main difference between these beans and those of the Special, is the uniformity of the size of the beans. This enables the beans to roast more uniformly. Here is the photo of these beans.
As I said above, Rancho Gotta started roasting its own coffee about three years ago. Before then, it was selling its production to some of the larger producers in Panama. However, Arnoldo and Yosi are perfectionists. They hated to see their pure Arabica beans mixed with other varieties that were non ECO OK.
They are also actively trying to get Panama to require its coffee producers to list the ingredients on the coffee bag. Unless you purchase coffee in bean form, you may also be getting some filler with your coffee, such as corn or other beans. You will not have to worry about this with Rancho Gotta coffee. It is 100% pure ECO OK coffee.
Three years ago Ranchoi Gotta decided to take the next step and purchase their own roaster. While on a trip to the US, Arnoldo searched the Internet for a coffee roaster and fount the one in the next photo in Garland, Texas. He bought it and had it shipped to panama.
This is a manual roaster. It requires constant monitoring and manual inspection to to get the beans roasted to just that perfect state. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to roast a 20 pound batch or beans. You can see the beans through the front of the roaster.
There is also an extractor that allows you to take a sample to validate the state of roast. Here is a photo of some beans that haven’t finished roasting.
The beans that are in the roaster during these photos was the Special category. It was interesting to find out that when the coffee is almost ready, it starts popping. When the extractor was pulled out, you could hear the coffee popping.
Here is another photo showing the Premium on the left and the Special on the right.
A closeup of the Premium.
A closeup of the Special.
When the beans are perfectly roasted, they are dumped from the roaster into the cooler and sifter container as seen in the following video. It takes about 5 minutes to reduce the coffee beans to room temperature.
Here is a photo of some of the Special beans that have just been roasted.
The next part of the process is to grind the beans and bag them. Here is Arnoldo weighing out some ground Special coffee. The manual process takes time, but shows the care and attention that is put in every bag. The bags themselves are a story. When the first started, they had labels that they had to place on each bag. Now they have changed their packaging and have the printing on the bags. These bags are well designed contain an re-sealer strip so the the coffee is always fresh. The bags are in a previous photo.
We roasted a batch of Premium coffee as well, but I didn’t take photos.
We then took a little time and took some of the freshly roasted Premium coffee and brewed some coffee for tasting. Amazing. The combination of freshly roasted, freshly ground, and freshly brewed made this he best cup of coffee I have ever had. I really appreciate the opportunity to have had this experience.
Arnaldo and Yosi make quite a team. Arnoldo is a decreed agronomist. He worked for Chiquita Banana prior to becoming his own boss.
Yosi is a world class chef also with a background in forensic sciences. Having spent a lot of years in Texas, she said she makes some of the best TexMex Mexican food ever. She promised me the opportunity to sample some of it one day. I look forward to that. Still the combination of culinary arts and forensic sciences sends thoughts of Hannibal Lecter through my mind. Is there such a thing as TexMex brain enchiladas? Naw, she wouldn’t do that would she!?
Following the coffee tasting session, it was lunch time and we went to Boquete and I introduced Yosi and Arnaldo to Tammy’s. What a great day. Good coffee, good hamburgers, good friends. It just doesn’t get any better than this.
UPDATE: I just received a clarification from Arnaldo. I had written that this was a Organic Coffee farm. He classifies it as an eco – ok, which is different from been organic. Arnaldo says that, ECO OK coffee plantations are ones that don’t use pesticides, but assists the coffee plants with some human-made fertilizer. The rest of the assistance is all organic material that the coffee plants provide to the soil directly. With this new knowledge, I have removed the term”organic” from the post, and changed it to ECO OK.