Farm: Berlina Estate
Processing: Fully Washed
Altitude: 1,500 to 1,700 metres above sea level
Owner: Casa Ruiz, S.A.
Town / City: Horqueta, Boquete
Belina Estate Geisha - Panama
La Berlina Estate Coffee Farm was founded by Sr. Segundo Diaz, a Colombian soldier sent to Panama to quash the separatist upraising in the beginning of the 20th century. When Panama obtained its independence, these soldiers were given the choice to return to Colombia or to settle in Panama. As Sr. Diaz had fallen in love with Boquete and, of course, with a Boqueteña girl, he chose to stay and start a coffee plantation. In the mountains outside Boquete, the Diaz family found enough coffee bushes to create an 80 acre farm of native Typica, Arabica “Criollo” coffee. Much of the coffee, however, was completely wild, scattered in the rain forest’s rich volcanic soil as a result of “jujunas” (raccoons) snacking on cherries on the coffee farms below and scattering the seeds as they returned to the higher elevations. By the 1920s, the family had established a “perfect, sustainable farm” for the family to live off, complete with a small sugar cane mill powered by a water wheel, corn fields, chickens and pigs.
In the beginning, the children were the official coffee pickers, assisted by neighbors and some Ngobe Indians that had come to work on surrounding farms during the coffee harvest. During the harvest season, the whole family worked almost 24-7, picking the cherries and taking them to the milling plant powered by a water wheel to remove the coffee pulp and mucilage (natural sugar coating). During this time, coffee was stored in a special attic to take advantage of the drier roof and warm, rising air. For the family, coffee was often used as a sort of trade currency to obtain “luxury” items like new shoes and even education. One year, one of the teenage sons made a hole in the ceiling into the attic to get a couple of pounds of coffee to use it as money to take his girlfriend on a date!
By the early 1930s La Berlina Estate Coffee Farm was producing a well-recognized, quality coffee; however, in time, the self-sustaining farm could not produce enough to support the growing family, which by now included more children and several new members through marriage. As years passed and as depressed coffee prices took their toll, Don Manuel, Mr. Diaz’s son, was forced to sell the farm and the only life he’d known.
Now managed by the Ruiz Family, La Berlina Estate Coffee still promotes the coffee planted from the original seeds in Boquete. The fourth generation of the family continues to learn about growing and processing coffee, not just through the use of current technologies but also gaining experience from lessons learned from the past with the goal of providing delicious coffee from La Berlina Estate to the world. Coffee from the estate regularly wins competitions both at the national and the international level.
At the beginning of the new century, new challenges came to speciality producers. It was during these years that Geisha was discovered/developed in 2004 on Nicaragua’s famous Finca Esmeralda.
It was 2005 when Mr. Price Peterson sold 5lb of the Geisha Esmeralda Especial from the Jaramillo´s farm to Mr. Plinio Ruíz Jr. who carefully planted and developed a nursery using the seeds. By the beginning of 2006, some 3,500 plants were ready to be planted for 2006. The very best part of the farm, with the old Typicas, was chosen and the baby plants were established between the rows of Typicas to great success. The plantation was extended in 2008, and by 2010, the first 5 lbs of Geisha was harvested from La Berlina. The real surprise came in the year 2011 when the farm harvested 250lbs, part of which went on to win Best of Panama 2011!