The coffee culture in Panama City has grown exponentially since I moved here in 2011. Back then, there were maybe two places in the whole city that specialized in producing a good cup of joe. Now I have two coffee shops within walking distance of my apartment!
On a worldwide level, Panama is not a country that is known as a major coffee growing region. Colombia or Brazil are usually the first to come to mind. However, the coffee produced in Panama is something special. The majority of it is grown in the Boquete region, which is the highlands area of the country. The spring-like climate and mountainous terrain are perfect for growing high-quality coffee beans.
Panama has especially become famous for its Geisha coffee, which is some of the most expensive in the world. A pound of these magic beans will set you back at least $160. There’s a coffee shop in Brooklyn just started selling this stuff at a whopping $18 a cup. What is so special about Geisha coffee? You have to try it to find out. It’s smooth, fruity, almost tea-like, and will taste unlike any coffee you have tried before. Not everyone who tries it has an orgasm, but it’s something unique to have while you are in Panama and you can find it in most specialty coffee shops here for $6 – $9 a cup.
However, there is also a lot of bad coffee sold in Panama as well. If you buy coffee from a street vendor or drink whatever your hotel is serving in the morning or visit a Starbucks, please do not judge your coffee experience in Panama based on this.
For the good stuff, you can visit one of the growing numbers of local third-wave coffee shops. A third-wave coffee shop is the latest movement of where coffee is heading, and these places strive to make coffee an artisanal experience rather than serving pots of black coffee. Basically, places full of hipsters with tattoos. When ordering a coffee at one of these places, I recommend requesting a pour over style of black coffee. Then, before immediately pouring creme and sugar in it, take a sip first. Many people find that the coffee is so good on its own that nothing needs to be added to it.
Mentiritas Blancas is a coffee shop situated in the heart of Panama City’s funky Via Argentina neighborhood. As you enter the place, you are welcomed by a cozy, intimate setting that instantly makes you feel at home. Along one wall is a row of bar stools where you may find digital nomads working away online, and a couch at the end provides a comfortable setting to catch up with friends. The aroma of coffee and freshly baked pastries fills the air. I think what sets this coffee shop apart from the rest is the customer experience they provide. The owners and baristas are super knowledgeable and take the time to help you choose the right cup of coffee for you.
Unido’s cozy, chic cafes are one of my favorite spots to go for a cup of coffee in Panama (or when my internet is out). They opened their first cafe in Panama City’s Coco del Mar neighborhood in early 2014, and since then they have opened coffee shops in Casco Viejo, Costa del Este, Marbella, Multiplaza, and Costa del Este. Their stores feature six different blends of gourmet roasted coffee from Panama, and they also serve fantastic breakfast, sandwiches, and salad options.
A small coffee shop in Casco Viejo is home to some of the best coffee in Panama. Bajareque Coffee House features high-quality coffee from the Elida and El Burro Estates in Boquete, Panama. What’s great about this place is that the farms and coffee house are the same owners, so you know you are getting their best batches of coffee. If you’re in Casco, you must swing by and try a pour over of their award-winning Geisha coffee! They also have a great trio special where you can try of a cup of each their three house blends: washed, honey, and natural for just $6.75.
Leto is a coffee brew bar that just opened in the San Francisco neighborhood of Panama City. They specialize in providing premium cups of Panamanian coffee that is sourced from Boquete and Volcan in the Chiriqui province of Panama. Whether you like your coffee prepared in a pour over, Aeropress, Chemex, siphon or just want a cappuccino with fancy latte art, this is a nice spot to go.
If you like Bajareque coffee, then you can also find it served at Nina Café inside the beautiful Nina Concept Store in Obarrio. Besides serving great coffee, this is an excellent place to go for a spectacular lunch or brunch.
Besides having great coffee and tea, Athanasiou is home to one of the best bakeries in Panama, and the store is covered wall-to-wall in chocolates, artisan bread, and pastries. They have locations in Costa del Este, Via Porras, Paitilla and several other spots in the city.
Kotowa is an award-winning and well-known coffee brand from Boquete, Panama. They have several locations throughout Panama, and in Panama City, you can always find them inside the Deli Gourmet stores.
Casa Sucre Coffeehouse is a cozy getaway in Casco Viejo where you can enjoy one of their many varieties of Panamanian coffee and breakfast/lunch options.
The just opened Nomada Eatery is a great spot to enjoy a quick sandwich, coffee, or a craft beer. It’s located at the entrance of Casco Viejo next to Luna’s Castle Hostel.
A cute basement cafe in Plaza Francia with a good selection and vegan options.
Where is your favorite spot to go for coffee in Panama? Leave a comment below.