The farm Finca Lerida Coffee Estate
Finca Lerida is a farm with a rich and unique history. Its founder, Tollef B. Monniche, came to Panama from Norway in 1907 to work as an engineer on the Panama Canal. Tollef retired in 1924, and bought a small farm in Boquete, Panama with his wife - the property was called "Lerida" after the city in Spain. He built a house on the property and went to work planting coffee trees as well as fruits and vegetables. He built a dam on the farm, to provide water to the coffee processing plant there, and also developed and patented a device, called the "Sifon" to separate ripe cherries from unripe ones. This device is still in use today, not only at Finca Lerida but also on coffee farms worldwide.
Today, Finca Lerida is run by the Chiari family, who coordinate coffee growing with surrounding rainforest preservation. It also houses an eco-tourism hotel, where patrons can take tours of the farmland and enjoy the ambiance of the rainforest. The farm sits at an altitude of 1600 – 2000m above sea level and grows Caturra, Catuai, and Geisha varietals, which are processed several ways.
Natural process, dry process, unwashed, or natural sundried all refer to the same method of processing that usually involves drying coffee cherries either on patios or raised beds in the sun. To prevent the cherries from spoiling, they are raked and turned throughout the day and then covered at night or during rainstorms. This process, which can take 3-6 weeks normally, is the more traditional method of processing coffee. This process of drying the cherries out in the sun originated in places without reliable access to water and usually works best in areas with low humidity and infrequent rain — such as parts of Ethiopia and Yemen — although we do have some farmers using the natural process in other places as well, like this coffee from Panama.
After the cherries have been dried to the optimum level, they are sent to mills to separate the seeds from the rest of the dried fruit, otherwise known as being “hulled.”
The parents of this variety are Pacas and Maragogype, belonging to the Bourbon-Typica genetic group, incomplete pedigree selection conducted by the Salvadoran Institute of Coffee Research (ISIC). Grown primarily in El Salvador, where it frequently dominates Cup of Excellence competitions for high cup quality. A similar variety, Maracaturra, likely originated from a natural cross between Caturra x Maragogipe in Nicaragua. Initial selections were made by the Nicaraguan Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) in 1976, which were never completed following the Sandinista revolution. Further selections were made by private producers in Central America, but the variety has never been stabilized.