Farm: Finca Eleta
Varietal: Catuaí, Bourbón, Typica, Caturra
Processing: Fully washed & sun dried; finished in guardiolas coffee dryers 6x20kg vaccuum packed
Altitude: 1,700 to 1,900 metres above sea level
Owner: Café Eleta SA / Eleta Family
Town / City: Candelas
Finca Eleta Cerro Punto - Panama
Café de Eleta is located in Piedra Candela, a place where nature, climate and altitude mingle to offer one of the best locations in the world for specialty coffee production. This Cerro Punto lot bears the same name as the Eleta family’s horse stud farm, Haras Cerro Punto.
In the 1920’s, Panamanian President, Don Manuel Amador Guerrero, sponsored a push to explore the inner reaches of Panama’s countryside and mountains. The Valley of Cerro Punta was ‘discovered’ in 1921 by three explorers who had set out to acquire new territory in Panama’s highlands. Along the path known today as ‘Los Quetzales’, the three men stumbled upon the most beautiful jewel of the Valle de Luna – the Valle de Cerro Punto. The valley contains an extinct volcanic crater and boasts some of the highest altitudes of Chiriquí, reaching at points beyond 2,000 metres. The Eleta family pioneered horse racing in Panama and brought the first thoroughbreds to the Valley in 1945. The stud farm, Haras Cerro Punto, was built in 1977. The region is not only great for rearing horses, however – it produces some of the best coffee in Panama.
Café de Eleta’s premises are located near La Amistad International Park, just one kilometre from the border between Panama and Costa Rica. The park is primary rainforest preserve belonging to Central America’s ecological corridor. Owing to its biodiversity and significance to the ecosystem, it has been declared a Natural Heritage by UNESCO. Coffees grown on the farm benefit from this special location within the cloud forest, which is rich with exotic species and a wide variety of animals and plants.
Café de Eleta’s first ranch of approximately 130 hectares was acquired in the early 70s. For two decades, the ranch produced primarily vegetables, other agricultural crops and livestock. In 1995 the company began to specialize exclusively in coffee. It was at this time that the company took the name of Café de Eleta S.A. Since that time, Café de Eleta has significantly expanded, growing to nearly 420 hectares. The farm’s first exported coffee in 1998 and most of its coffee is destined for European and American markets.
In light of its unique location, the farm’s owners and staff take a great deal of care in protecting their natural heritage and work to preserve Café de Eleta as a home to a large number of species in danger of extinction.
In order to ensure the proper care of the environment, they have taken the following measures:
- Forest guardians ride across the ranch to make sure that poachers do not trespass and that both local people and visitors respect the ecosystem.
- Café de Eleta’s staff members receive training in environmental issues so that they can better understand the measures that must be adopted to protect the area.
- They are implementing a re-forestation programme to sow 5000 native species every year.
- They use either organic products or products that proved harmless to fertilize the soil and control plagues.
Quality at Eleta starts with strict attention to harvesting, with only the ripest beans being picked. Coffee is then transported to the farm’s mill just hours after being harvested.
This attention to detail is carried through at the farm’s wet mill, which uses the most modern technologies to ensure proper pulping and fermentation. Coffee is delivered to floatation tanks, where underripe and damaged beans are separated from the dense, ripe beans. Coffee is then pulped, fermented and fully washed before being delivered to the mills patios for pre-drying. Shortly after, the pergaminio coffee is slowly dried at a constant temperature in the mill’s wood-fired guardiolas. Only when the optimal humidity of 12% is reached is the coffee stored in wooden silos or jute sacks to rest for 45 to 60 days.
Before being delivered to rest, each lot of coffee is cupped by Eleta’s team of experienced cuppers to ensure that the coffee is free of defects. This lot – Cerro Punto – has been ranked as one of the highest quality.
Plans for the future include:
- Trying new varietals against Rust, OBATA (Catuai hibrid) & Venecia.
- Planting also new Bourbons and Pacamara coffees.
- Natural processing more coffee as the demand for naturals is growing.
The farm employees 34 individuals year-round and, during the harvest, provides employment for 400 additional workers, many of whom come from indigenous communities around Panama (Knobe-Bugle, primarily). In 2000, Finca Eleta – concerned for the welfare of these families – founded ‘La Escuelita Café de Eleta’ (Café Eleta’s Little School), a day care and school project established to help prevent child labour and to help the farm’s seasonal workers. Starting with just one room, the school has grown to serve the wider community, with a three school-room building being built by the Eleta family in conjunction with the Casa Esperanza foundation in 2014. Children attending the school receive healthy meals and support with maths and reading and also receive health care support.