Starbucks, the coffee franchise on every corner of the U.S., plans to open stores in Panama at the beginning of 2015.

In April 2011, Starbucks Coffee Company signed an agreement to begin operating franchises in Central America. Since then they have opened 5 stores in El Salvador, 4 in Costa Rica, and 2 in Guatemala. They employ a total of 190 people in the region.

They haven’t revealed where the new locations will be in Panama but they would like to open 11 – 20 more Starbucks locations throughout Central America within the next year.

In Panama the “coffee café culture” has been slow to take off but I think it is starting to bud now. There’s been a few places that have opened in the past year that I love going to like Unido, Te Cafe, Bajareque, and the classic New York Bagels. But overall the amount of places that you can quickly go to grab a cup of coffee on the way to work or just hangout on a couch with your laptop is still very few.

So it must make sense for someone to fill the the gap, right? I’m not so sure how I feel about Starbucks filling it.

I like Starbucks – whenever I go home to the states I indulge in a Mocha Frappuccino. And whether I order it at the airport or the Starbucks at the mall, it’s going to taste the same. I don’t want something that is going to taste the same in Panama because then there is nothing special about it.

In Panama there is so much good, flavorful, locally grown coffee that we should appreciate. I’ve made a point to try almost every local brand since I have been here in a quest to find the best one (Bajareque is my top pick at the moment). I would love to see more unique local cafés open featuring coffee that is grown in Panama instead of having another international franchise open their doors here.

How awesome would it be to have a unique coffee place on every corner instead of a Starbucks on every corner?!

Once Starbucks does open I will probably order a Mocha Frappuccino from time to time, but I’ll spend the majority of my coffee money at the places I can only find in Panama.

What do you think? Are you excited for Starbucks to open in Panama? Leave a comment below:

Experience Panama City


I'm Joey, a guy from Louisville, Kentucky that packed up and studied abroad in Panamá at the age of 20 and haven't moved back since. What started as a semester trip to Panamá has turned into 7+ years of living in Latin America and becoming a full-time travel blogger. Follow me on Instagram @joeybonura for more updates on my life abroad!


  1. First of all, I plead guilty to being a coffee snob. That said, I think it takes a lot of goodwill to categorize Starbucks drinks as "good coffee". Even harder to find a similitude to italian coffee. I was recently in Italy and I didn´t see a single Starbucks. I think they would fail miserably in an environment where some of the best coffee in the world is served. Starbucks have been successful in catering to the mainstream, no doubt about that. But the mainstream most of the time is not the best judge for quality.

  2. Yay, Starbucks! I can't believe it took this long! It's common to slam Starbucks, but this is one tried rap about "who has better coffee." Starbucks has made a niche for coffee-culture where is did not exist—and without that saturation—and the relentless marketing of coffee as desirable—there would be no customers to support an independent coffee shop on every corner. There were coffee shops on every corner in Italy for hundreds of years, but that didn't export much outside of Europe. Starbucks took a great Italian model, marketed it globally, and then the independants followed. If you want more expansion of local cafes, roasters, and growers in Panama, than Starbucks can lead the way.

    Also—Starbucks is one of the most equitable employers in the world. They pay living wages, provide good working conditions, and offer benefits—in all their markets. That's good for unskilled workers—and competition for the exploitive hospitality industry in Panama, Colombia, etc. etc.

    But the coffee! Dear Snobs—yes, they offer Frappuccinos! People like sweet drinks! Coca Cola, anyone? Personally, I only drink drip—without sugar—but why would I look down my nose at people who don't share my palate? Lighten up. This is a quaility corporation, with a quality product, offering quality jobs. If it's not your cup of tea, then step aside while we, the fans, line up.

  3. A Mocha Frappuccino is not coffee. It is a coffee flavored milkshake. Don't forget the great coffee houses in Casco like Cafe Sucre, Deli Gormet and many more. Sugar and spice and all things nice make for a Starbuckey nite – but coffee – not so much.

  4. Jesus A. Barrios Reply

    Kotowa Coffee House Cafeter­a y Café
    Metromall, Ciudad de Panam¡, Panam¡ is another placce that prepares good coffee

  5. not really excited for this one, i also prefer to grab a coffee from coffee grown locally since our coffee is a very high quality. i think their prices will be high., but i might go once in a while.

  6. Some article i read says starbucks customers are as follows: working class people in between 25-40 years old account for 49% of its customers, while college students between 18-24 years old account for 40%. That said, it will be interesting to see how they will go about targeting those customers, considering that you can find really cheap coffee any where in the streets (starbucks is not cheap); most employers would buy coffee for their employees, which already limits the need to go out for coffee during the morning; and finally, panama's hot weather makes could influence overall coffee consumption (Panama's coffee consumption is lower than our peers in central america). However, I think it will be a game changer for most local coffee retailers in PTY, in regards to quality and customer service. Starbucks is a coffee giant, sure they have done their homework into the coffee market in PTY.

  7. I have been in the coffee industry for 7 years now, currently editor of an industry coffee website. I'm relocating to PTY (El Cangrejo) from New York City in June. I have already planned a trip to Boquete to tour some of the coffee farms and I would love to know more about the coffee culture in the city! – Alexis R.

  8. We have our Starbucks franchise with a Panamanian touch….Kotowa….which is similar in the buzz idea to Starbucks. I do not see the reason for Starbucks buzz to grow in Panama. I hope they do well but I see a very hard time to them. There is also a new coffee franchise Americanino…..I have not try yet.

  9. Jorge Rosales Reply

    I totally agree with you regarding the quality of the coffee: Starbucks' is the same everywere and it's not going to improve the (poor) quality of most local brands or coffee shops (with the exception of Unido, Te Cafe and Bajareque that have really good ones). That said, I think that Starbucks is more about the "experience" or will cover what you describe as the "overall the amount of places that you can quickly go to grab a cup of coffee on the way to work or just hangout on a couch with your laptop is still very few". Hopefully, local brands and business will learn from their business model and improve their services, hours of operation and overall experience (such as provide with couches to just sit with your laptop or read a book), which is something that Starbucks' knows how to do.

  10. Gast³n Arcuri Reply

    I -totally- agree with you. However, you'll see the endless yeyesito line waiting for their frappuchino.

  11. Honestly, Starbucks is more about branding; is just one more franchise, just like McDonalds or KFC. Yes, we have great restaurants with local food, but sometimes you need to grab something quick and "good" (understand good as not awful), so you go to these franchise restaurants that will get you food, fast. Starbucks can't be compared to local-small coffee shops.

    I respect Starbucks for their branding, that's it. I would love to see more local coffee shops, but let's be honest, if Wilford opens up 10 Bajareque locations, it will become just another franchise… (By the way, haven't been in Bajareque, will go soon.)

    I do agree we need more local coffee shops though…

  12. I like the idea of having a few starbucks here in Panam¡ just for Culture porpuses. A lot of panamanian that had travel to the US had the opportunity to enjoy it an also liked it. Maybe incorporating panamanian coffee to the menu will be a good Idea.

  13. Armando Pablo Spurlock Reply

    …got news for you….STARBUCKS is Panamanian coffee.

  14. Chichi Flores Reply

    Starbucks coffee is just not for Panama! We like GOOD coffee!

  15. I totally agree with you! I have a group if friends who go together for coffee every friday morning and we like to try a different cafe every time. I drink one at Starbucks every time I goto usa but I will never change my panamanian coffee.

  16. I am the owner of Bajareque and I feel very happy that you liked our coffee. To be honest is not about competing against starbucks. The thing that hurts me is that some people will appreciate it more for thw wrong reasons, it happens already with Juan Valdez.

    My great grandfather bought the farm back in the early 1900s and since then it has grown coffee. Around 1997 my father began to make a selection on the lots to make the best cup of coffee possible, we are lucky to have a great quality coffee bean and we had won several prices thanks to it. The process to get those beans in a cup of coffee is very delicate. Te Cafe and Cafe Unido do not own coffee farms, but they do are very cautios when they choose the beans that will be sold at their stores, is also top quality coffee grown in local farms. And also, the three of us roast our coffee in our stores. Soon we will open a new Bajareque, but we need it to mantain the top quality or even make it better

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