by Louis J. Barbier (BHS 57’)

Our search takes us to the Cerro Punta where Luis Miguel has a little finca and cultivates a few hundred coffee plants. Coffee comes from the Latin form of the genus Coffee, a member of the Rubiaceae family which includes more than 500 genera and 6,000 species of tropical trees and shrubs. Other members of the family include the gardenias and plants which yield quinine and other useful substances, but Coffee is by far the most important member of the family economically. "I bet you didn’t know that did you?" says, Luis Miguel Ramos Carvajal.

I said, "Luis no......but save us the history lesson. We are on a quest of the Holy Grail of the Coffee Kingdom. The best coffee in the world. "Well, take a look around....isn’t the view out of sight? And those aren’t tomato plants." "Yes, Louis now lets talk about the Cafe.....Okay?" "Si,, my friend. I will first show you. Then we’ll have a cup of coffee with those finger licking good Diablo Clubhouse Empanadas. Joe, honest I got the recipe when the Panama Canal Company pulled out. But that is another little story.......I’ll have to tell you some day." The coffee plants range from small shrubs to trees as tall as 32 feet high and the leaves can range in color from purple to yellow, however, green is the predominant color. Coffee is a tropical plant. It is ideally suited for the roughed Colombian mountains and this lost paradise of the universe called Chiriqui. All coffee plants need good drainage. Frost is the worst climatic event that can affect a coffee plant.<>

Coffee plants bear fruit in lines or clusters along their branches. The fruit turns red and cherry-like when it is ready to be harvested. Depending on the type of coffee plant, the cherry takes between 6 to 11 months to ripen. The traditional way to grow coffee trees in close proximity to each other. One of the big surprises is that manure or chemical fertilizer is never use on our plants. "I don’t have to tell you Joe, what this can do to a  great cup of coffee!"

"Okay, Luis cut to the chase.....lets get to the good stuff, so we can enjoy the best coffee in the world." "Joe, you got it. Here we grow Arabica  coffee. It is has an advantage over the other major species the Robusta, in that it is capable of fertilizing itself. Robust can not. Aribica represents approximately 70 percent of the world’s coffee production."  

As you can see the Arabica plant is an evergreen, typically large bush with dark green, oval shaped leaves that can reach a height of 14 to 20 feet fully grown. Here on this small Hacienda San Antonio, we keep the plants at a height of about two to three metros to facilitate harvesting and nourish heavy bearing of berries.

These plants here were planted three years ago and have now reached maturity. That is when they produce first crop. The Arabica plant can continue to produce fruits for about 50 years although the fruit yield decreases significantly after about 30. Arabica trees prefer a seasonal climate of 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit and an annual rainfall of 60 inches.  Each tree you see here has produced between 1 and 12 pounds of coffee a year.

 Coffee Robusta is our competition. Robusta grows up to 32 feet in height as a shrub with a very shallow root system. The fruits are round and take nearly a year to mature. The seeds are rounder and smaller than Arabica beans. It represents 25% of the world's coffee production.

Robusta trees produce their first crop 3 to 4 years after planting and they remain fruitful for 20 to 30 years. The trees prefer equatorial conditions with  temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and an annual rainfall of 60 inches.

 Robusta tends to be a hardier, more disease-resistant bean than Arabica which is less expensive to maintain and produces a higher yield.  Consequently Robusta beans are used for the less expensive canned and instant coffees.

Arabica coffee grows best at high altitudes (from 1500m to 2500m) while Robusta coffee prospers in lowlands such as rainforests. Before roasting, the color of Robusta beans are yellow to light  brown in appearance whereas Arabica are green with silver/bluish shades. The Robusta is round while the Aribica bean is flat and oval. Another  interesting fact is that Robusta beans have more caffeine content then the  Aribica beans. On the average .8% more, so if you are into jumping-jumping then the Robusta beans are for you.

But we here love Arabica beans. This is the beans that produce the fabulous Cafe Duran. I have some 100 LB sacks in the shed but lets go and enjoy some fabulous coffee.

A perfect cup of coffee is easy if you start by simply combining ground beans with water until the brew is drinkable. Sounds easy but as very coffee drinker knows it can be a disaster that can ruin your Manana. Yes, Mon.! There are three rules that one must not break or you get ca-ca! In order to consistently making a great cup of coffee, you must start with the best coffee beans, a clean machine, and delicious sparkling clear cool water. In Panama this is not a problem. The water of the Chagres is the best in the world. Here at the Hacienda San Antonio we use cool sparkling mountain stream water.

Now, lets elaborate a bit. Make sure that the equipment you are using is thoroughly cleaned. Leftover residue, oils and grounds will leave strange flavors in your brew. Ideally, you should clean your coffee maker thoroughly at least once a week with a mixture of water and vinegar to remove the oils. We here use a Mr. Coffee Drip Coffee Maker. Surprise? Don’t be. Mr. Coffee brews delicious cup of coffee every time. 

Remember to buy and start with fresh, quality coffee beans. We here love Duran Cafe Puro. There farm is a few miles away. This Coffee House has been around since 1907. Now I would tell you that Teddy Roosevelt had something to do with this......but I won’t. I will say that Teddy really knew how to build a canal. And he enjoyed his first great cup of Cafe DURAN at the Tivoli Guest House. Now if I recall he also had quite a few cups in an all night poker game with John Stevens, Doctor Gorgas, Presidente Amador Guerro, and Col. Tom Murphy of the local Marine Barracks.

Well, lets get back to brewing the best cup of coffee. Remember to protect your beans. If your beans get stale it will produce a very flat awful tasting beverage. Now, 98% of a cup of coffee is water. Bad water means bad coffee. Use fresh, clear water to prepare your coffee. Always grind your coffee, if possible, immediately before brewing. This will give a fresh taste and avoid bitter or stale flavors in the coffee. if you can’t do that then buy Duran Cafe en los sobrecitos. You use only what you need and save the rest for the next coffee break.

Now, this is very important. So listen up.....make sure that the grind of the coffee that you are using matches your method and taste. We here like very fine grind. Also only use the right amount of coffee. The most common mistake is not using enough coffee. The result is another bad cup of coffee. That can be best described as very thin and watery like dirty dish water. It  also lacks the depth of flavor that a great cup of coffee will produce and have people yelling "Now that is great Coffee!"

Here is a good rule of thumb: 2 level tablespoons for each 6oz cup of coffee. And never, never boil your water. if you do the delicate flavors of the Coffee will be lost forever. You should instead brew "just off the boil", between 195 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (95-98°C). Mr. Coffee is famous for having this perfect brewing cycle.

Another little inside secret is to warm your cup before pouring the coffee in; this keeps the coffee hot longer. Hey, I bet you didn’t know that did you. And always stir the coffee before serving. This will produce good consistency in the heavier oils in the coffee. 

Now, here is another common mistake that people make and wonder why their coffee has gone down hill after the first good cup. Never, never leave the coffee on the warmer plate. After 20 minutes the coffee will taste dull and stale and it will develop a bitter, acrid flavor. Not a good cup of coffee. It is better to put it in a quality thermos and serve from their. Just like those Coffee carafes that were provided at the Tivoli Guest House in the Breakfast room. Always drink your coffee freshly brewed. Never reheat coffee. if you follow these simple rules you will always have a great cup of coffee!

Luis, what is that fragrance I smell emitting from your country-style Kitchen? "That my friend, is the best coffee in the world!" So, lets all enjoy a cup of Cafe Duran with these delicious Diablo Clubhouse Empanadas. Life is good!


Now for the piece of Resistance, a few recipes:

(1.) Mud Slide Ingredients
1 shot Vodka 
1 shot Coffee Liqueur (Kahlua) 
1 shot Bailey's Irish Cream vanilla ice cream

Blend until smooth, but don't over blend.
Serve in a nice tall glass.

(2.) Café Diablo - Serves 1
Ingredients 2 cubes sugar
1 ½ shots brandy
½ shot Grand Marnier
5-8 whole cloves
1 strip orange peel
1 strip lemon peel
8 oz Kenyan or Sumatran brewed coffee

Gently heat all of the ingredients except for the coffee in a chafing dish or, if one is not available, in a saucepan. Pour the hot coffee into a coffee mug. The brandy should begin to release its aroma after a few minutes. At this point ignite the brandy and allow the flames to burn for 15-20 seconds, then ladle the brandy mixture over the hot coffee. Mix the coffee and brandy together.

(3.) Coffee Pork Chops - 180°C, 350°F, Gas Mark 4 - Serves 6

Ingredients 6 pork chops
3 tblspns olive oil
2 mashed cloves garlic
2 tspns parsley
150ml red wine
150ml strong, black coffee
3 tspns honey
salt and black pepper, freshly ground
juice and grated pulp of a lemon or lime

Put the chops inside a large, but low stew pan. Mix the remaining ingredients and drop them all on to the chops. Let it marinate overnight, stirring every now and then. Remove the chops from the stew pan, put them under the grill and turn them over until uniformly browned. Put them again into the stew pan and bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove the chops, and skim the fat off the gravy. Serve with rice. 

(4.) Coffee Ragout - Serves 6

Ingredients 2 large onions
500g of fusillia (Italian pasta)
4-500g of lean pork or turkey meat roughly minced
2 tblspns butter
2 tblspns olive oil
100ml red wine
100ml coffee, medium brewed
salt and pepper
pinch dried mint and sweet marjoram

Melt butter and oil in a large frying pan, add the onions - chopped up fine, and wait for the onion, on a low flame, to almost melt without coloring. Now add the mincemeat, a pinch of salt and pepper, and let it color, turning it every now and then, until the gravy begins to dry. Add the wine in successive stages - when the wine is finished, continue with the coffee. Finally, add the dried mint and marjoram. Stir to amalgamate all the ingredients. The Serve this ragout. 

(5.) Now for the Cafe en la "Carne en Palito" - Serves 6

Ingredients 2 large garlic cloves, chopped 
1 tspn salt
2 tblspns freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tblspns olive oil
½ cup double-strength coffee
2 tblspns red wine
1 ½ tspns dried rosemary
½ tspn freshly ground pepper
1 ½ lbs boneless lamb, cut into 2 inch chunks
pineapple wedges
yellow and red cherry tomatoes
Bermuda onion wedges
fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish

In a mixing bowl, mash the garlic and salt into a paste. Whisk in the lemon juice, olive oil, coffee and red wine, rosemary and pepper. Toss the lamb chunks in the marinade. Cover the bowl and allow the meat to marinate for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator. 

Remove the lamb from the marinade and set the liquid aside for basting. Alternate the lamb, pineapple, red pepper, cherry tomatoes and onion wedges on skewers. Grill the lamb over hot coals for 12 to 15 minutes, basting with the reserved marinade and turning frequently. Serve on a shallow bed of fresh rosemary. 

And now kick back listen to a little Lucho music and have the best coffee in the world.....Yes, Cafe Duran! El Cafe que si satisface cada vece que tu los tome. El cafe que la mas gente pide por nombre.

Cafe Duran en mejor cafe en el mundo.