Cafe de Eleta is situated in Panama in a region called Piedra Candela, two hours north of David and one kilometre from the border with Costa Rica. The beauty of this special coffee farm is that it is set within a rainforest in La Amistad International Park. The farm was established in 1972 to breed cattle, sheep and pig livestock. It wasn’t until 1995 that the Eleta Group started growing coffee. Over the following years, the group bought more land and the farm grew to 420 hectares. The first coffee export from Cafe de Eleta took place in 1998 and was sent to Europe and the USA.
The Eleta Group is a well known family enterprise in Panama and was started by Don Fernando Eleta. Today it is a highly respected team within the business world as owners of media and insurance companies as well as breeding high level race horses. For the past twenty years the group has become renowned for its excellent specialty coffee. Cafe de Eleta has thousands of coffee plants planted over 150 hectares of their farm.
They have six varieties of coffee including Geisha, Bourbon, Jardin, Typica, as well as Catuai-Caturra which is a natural blend and takes up more than 85% of the farm. The Eleta Group built a beneficio (mill) onsite which allows for full control of their processing methods. The coffee from Cafe de Eleta is becoming world renowned and now exports to countries such as Italy, Japan, Holland, USA, and here in Australia where it is exclusive to Genovese Coffee.
Cafe de Eleta is active in supporting and developing their community. A high percentage of employees of the farm belongs to the ethnic Ngobe Bugle, one of the largest and most representative indigenous groups in the Republic of Panama. They live in the province of Chiriqui, bordering Costa Rica. During the harvest months, from October to March, Ngöbe families leave their lands and homes of origin to join the group of harvest on the coffee plantations of productive regions. Café de Eleta has built a residential complex with all facilities for employees and their families live in. This project includes areas of healthy recreation for the sport. We believe it is essential to support and develop this aspect among our people. It has implemented a program of both child and adult education. Ngobe collaborators have learned to read and write, and have received some basic math skills. After reconsidering the restrictions imposed by their culture, indigenous women collaborators are already included in the academic programs.
Cafe de Eleta’s Child Labour Free project states “We believe that we contribute in some way to the growth of Panama and its people, which is, without doubt, the best resource we have as a country. Any support we can provide to provide a better quality of life to our women, men and children is a contribution to national future.” The wages for coffee plantation workers in Panama is one of the highest in the region, with pickers able to earn up to $100US per day. Most of the Ngobe Bugle moves to coffee farms with their wives and small children. On our farm, children do not work: during the months when their parents are engaged in their work activities, children receive education, play and build relationships of mutual respect with the non-indigenous community in the area. The program for the eradication of child labor, holding coffee Eleta comprises aspects of education, nutrition, health, recreation and cultural exchange. The program takes place during the harvest months (November to February) and welcomes all children, sons and daughters of employees, aged between 4 and 14 years. For us it is essential to respect all children and educate them holistically as individuals, provide academic instruction and knowledge of urbanity, civic and moral values. To this end, we have established a partnership with Casa Esperanza, an NGO in Panama, which promotes the elimination of child labor and ensuring education for indigenous children in schools also are areas where children are cared while their parents work. By experience, and by a sincere desire to make positive changes in our people, we have built an educational center. Coffee Eleta covers expenses related to operating costs (including home for educators), food, educational and teaching materials, in addition to the daily transportation to and from school.