using my inside voice

Day 177 - A Career in Coffee

Central American Travel | November 27, 2009

At 10 he was picking coffee beans to help support his 9 brothers and mother - his Dad had run away when he was young.

The money he earned coffee picking after school was enough to pay for school books and the bus to and from home.

At 14 he was still picking, but soon made the transition to many other roles in the coffee growing, processing and roasting world.

At 30, after fulfilling every role on the farm, he testifies that picking is definitely the hardest.

Working his way up through the coffee world, Carlos now leads tours at Cafe Ruiz, one of the leading coffee producers in Boquete, Panama.

With a wealth of information and a sense of humour to boot, he makes 3 hours on the farm, in the processing plant and roasting room fly by.

He calls Nescafe "No es cafe" which means "it's not coffee". He says Starbucks are great at selling milk and sugar. He thinks 4 cups of coffee a day isn't a lot, and says that he's met people that drink 10 a day... before noon.

And, he gave me an opportunity to take some amazing photos of all the beautiful coffee plants throughout the farm.

The highly-prized Geisha coffee plant

Arabica coffee must be shade grown, and as you can see from the picture below, it's hard to tell this is even a coffee farm.

The mountainous Cafe Ruiz coffee plantation looks more like forest than agriculture

With close to thirty different fruit and vegetable plants (other than coffee) growing throughout the farm, the bugs choose the fruit over coffee, some biodiversity is maintained, and the workers can pick as much ripe fruit for their own consumption as they please.

A coffee variety that yields yellow fruits

They spray pesticides only once a year, and then only if the plant needs it.

Some coffee beans that have been planted and sprouted

They don't weed, knowing that the weeds hold more water in the soil for the coffee plants, and they pick all their beans by hand.

Yellow and red coffee fruits, with some of the beans squeezed out

Cafe Ruiz also sells 10% of it's coffee within Panama, at prices completely affordable to locals. This is something many top-notch producers in the region no longer do, as they fetch much heftier sums selling their coffee at auction to roasters in the United States, Italy and other countries.

Green coffee beans ready for their final stage of production - roasting.

Cafe Ruiz seems to have it going on in more ways than one, and took my passion for coffee to a new level.

More soon...


1. DearKorea on November 29, 2009

Amazing. I wish I knew where all my coffee was coming from.

2. melindaread on December 12, 2009

Very interesting!

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About Bay Oliver

Bay's career has been many and varied due to a penchant for traveling the world. After completing a double degree in Business Management and Journalism at the University of Queensland in 2002 she was lucky enough to land herself a job at Brisbane's Quest Community Newspapers. A year of roving reporting brought the epiphany that journalism and Bay didn't jive.
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How to be creative...

Creating an economically viable entity where lack of original thought is handsomely rewarded creates a rich, fertile environment for parasites to breed. And thatʼs exactly whatʼs been happening. So now we have millions upon millions of human tapeworms thriving in the Western World, making love to their Powerpoint presentations, feasting on the creativity of others.

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Categories of Published Work

Day 176 - Ode to the Dickie Seat

Published: November 23, 2009

The dickie seat is a worthy adversary on any minibus trip in Central America - choose to sit in it at your peril!

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Published: August 23, 2009

Pullman buses - the cheap and fast way to get around Guatemala.