It’s a lot like drug dealing – I imagine. Rushing to sort, weigh, and bag $100,000’s worth of product while deep within a jungle. The only guarantees being a series of handshakes. That all happened midday though. The morning began with Banana pancakes.
After breakfast we went on a hike. It was only a few hundred yards in distance, but took a good half hour of maneuvering. Ratibor, a local fourth generation coffee farmer, led the way through the thick forest growth. Almost no step was taken without several machete hacks preceding it. However, we weren’t wondering aimlessly – we were looking for something.
Ratibor’s 90-year old father had recently remember something. A freshwater spring that came up so strong people mistook it for a creek. It came straight from the mountain just a few hundred yards from where the highway had been built. None of us, including Ratibor, had seen it before.
Covered in dirt, bark, bugs, moss, and mud, we pushed our way up the steep pitch – walking directly up the “creek” bed when rocks permitted it. It wasn’t long before we heard a cascading sound, and not much longer after that were we drinking from the hillside. Clean as crystal, it could have been bottled at the source.
Hydrated, we made our way back down. And once in the car headed over to the Finca Hartmann coffee farm – Ratibor’s property. He and the twenty people who make up his family all live there, and I’d like to tell you a story of what kind of man his father is.
When Ratibor was a young boy the farm dogs were disappearing. A jaguar was hunting them…successfully. His father worried the jaguar was a danger to the children, so he grabbed Ratibor, a gun, some rope, a flashlight and headed into the forest.
After a bit of time spent tracking a jaguar, they came across a half eaten dog, which was what his old man was looking for. He tied one end of the rope to the carcass, the other to his ankle, climbed high up into the nearest tree with Ratibor, and waited.
Ratibor held the flashlight, his father the gun. And sure enough, deep into the night he felt a tug at his ankle. Ratibor quickly clicked the flashlight on.
That jugar now lives above their fire place.
The Ngobe people are the indigenous people of Panama, and they seasonally migrate to and from the coffee farms for work. While the men work the fields, the women sort the beans – at least this is what I’ve witnessed.
Through a proprietary production process, Joseph produces an extremely sought after type of coffee that turns red when still un-roasted. It must be picked out from the green coffee, but the labor is well worth the time…depending on the quality, it can sell for a low of $150 per pound to $600.
*6:15pm: The Hot Springs
This is a majestic place – truly. Roaring howler monkeys and howling coyotes are heard signing across the valleys while rainclouds race down the mountain sides to water the forest in a surprisingly on timely manner. Once night set in, we jumped in a natural hot spring pool just next to the farm. And as the sunlight disappeared allowing fire flies to take over the night shift, bats could be made out swarming above against the dim colored sky.