After having lazed around in the sun and lukewarm waters of San Blas, it was time for a change of scenery. This time our destination was Volcán, a small town at the foot of the Barú volcano in Chiriqui, not far from the Costa Rican border. Dormant with the last eruption over 500 years ago, Volcán Baru (3,474 m) is a majestic and fascinating backdrop for our cheap “Cabaña”. Here you feel far far away from the heat and bustle of modern day Panama City and the Panama Papers. People turn to look long and curiously at Molly’s tussle of whiteblond hair and there is not a single Nike poster for Max to drool over. The only thing you feel overcharged on is the Panamanian bank fee at the local cash machine. Surprising? Not really…..

Volcan Baru
On a clear day, you can apparently see both the Pacific and the Atlantic from the top of Volcán Barú. Unfortunately clear skies are as rare here as in Revelstoke during the winter.

After a rainy end to our hike in the rainforest (I guess that was to be expected), neither of us was keen on another long walk in the mountains. Hence we decided to visit the Janson coffee farm. Curious about the name, I found out that the farm indeed had Swedish roots! The story of Carl Axel Janson is fascinating. Carl Jansson was a Swedish sailor, who when he reached Panama in the 1920s decided he had enough and skedaddled. In Panama he met a member of the famous Swedish Wallenberg family, disowned due to his homosexuality, who decided to finance the young entrepreneur. Successful in the shipping business, Carl then decided to buy land in the remote Chiriqui province and start a farm.

Entrance to Janson finca
The Jansons not only grow coffee but were the first to introduce Angus cattle to the area.

The story of Carl, and how a Swede ended up in these parts of the world in the 20s, was told to us by his granddaughter and granddaughter-in-law while we were sipping a cup of the Janson family’s famous Geisha coffee. Geisha is an incredibly expensive “gourmet” coffee and if you think that gourmet coffee is just picked, dried and roasted, think again! The berries (or cherries as they’re called) are carefully selected and handpicked by the local (and cared for) employees, then separated based on the sugar content and finally lovingly roasted. At up to $260 per kilo Geisha coffee is not exactly a bargain but Very Important Coffee Experts swear by it. Unfortunately my $6 cup did not give me the ecstatic rush I had expected. I thought it was a rather bitter and disappointing filter coffee. But what do I know…. I mostly drink it strong and black to get me out of bed in the morning and I neither have the time or the inclination to wait the minimum of 5 minutes it takes to brew a proper Geisha cuppa…

Baby Geisha
Baby Geisha trees are kept in the nursery until they are strong enough to be planted in the field. Not before their roots are carefully massaged, though.