A remarkable person made a dream come true in the highlands of Panama, in a place called Boquete which in Spanish means “a gap” or a “big hole”.
The name of the man is Toleff Boche Monniche. This is his outstanding story and magnificent dream—in printed words and images.
Hotel Finca Lerida is in one of the most picturesque locations on the Isthmus of Panama. Located at 1,600-1800 meters (5,249-5,906 feet) on the slopes of Volcán Barú, it borders Volcan Baru National Park, La Amistad International Park (PILA) forests, and the ecological reserve of its own coffee plantation.
Both the design and decor of the rooms has been inspired by the countryside of southern France and each room is equipped with the comforts of modern life. Around the hotel, interpretive trails allow guests to appreciate the biodiversity of the place and breathe the fresh mountain air, specially in the early mornings.
The tourist section has only 23 rooms to limit the number of people visiting the trails. Biological studies have determined that the burden on the fragile ecological system should not exceed twenty persons. There is a strong interest on the part of the company to protect the natural status of this beautiful place often visited by nature lovers and bird watchers (ornithologists).
The Coffee House has been recognized internationally since 1929 for its excellent beverages, rich in flavor and aroma. The coffee tradition endures in time in this alluring mountain plantation, making the modern gourmet restaurant, the wide spaces of the structure and the colorful gardens of Finca Lerida perfect venues for social and corporate events. Many consider the place to be the Napa Valley of coffee in the Republic of Panama.
Coffee was first farmed here in the 1920′s. After buying the farm in 1957, John Collins placed Lerida’s coffee on the map. Due to the elevation, perfect micro-climate and volcanic soil from Panama’s only volcano (Volcán Barú), Lerida’s coffees are not only among the best in Panama, it is among the best in the world.
About two years ago Finca Lérida was purchased by the Amoruso family. The new ownership is dedicated to keeping Lerida’s proud coffee traditions and boutique mountain hotel attractive to visitors from all corners of the globe. The varieties of coffee exported by Finca Lérida are Caturra, Catuai and Gheisha.
The historical value of the property is particularly important and should be noted. Mr. Toloff Monniche Boche, a Norwegian engineer graduate of the Royal College of Dresden, Germany, arrived in Panama to work on the design and construction of the emergency gates of the Panama Canal and the construction of a complex of docks in the City of Colon on the Atlantic Side. His story is as incredible as a Hollywood movie script.
In 1922 Toloff Monniche finally retired as an engineer of the Panama Canal. He and his wife, Julia, moved to Finca Lerida in Alto Quiel, Boquete. He built his house (completely by hand) in the most refined style of the Norwegian countryside, and invented the first coffee mill moved by gravity of Panama.
In addition, he designed and patented the “trap”, a device to separate the good beans from the bad ones, which have since been used by a majority of coffee mills worldwide. The siphon still works on the farm and Monniche’s original coffee mill still processes a coffee of exceptional quality. The original residence he built using the design of a house in Norway is still on the farm, and can be rented by potential guests. It is known as the Centennial House.
In 1929, Finca Lerida exported its first shipment of Panamanian coffee to Germany, and placed Panama on the map of higher-quality exotic coffees in Europe. For further information about this stunning hotel up in the mountains of the Province of Chiriqui please click here.
Below are several pictures of the original house built by this courageous man who made his dream come true at the turn of the century in a place “a hundred miles from anywhere”.
That’s it for today folks. With the inspiring story of Mr. Toleff Boche Monniche behind us, tomorrow we will meet the chef of the restaurant and his assistant, as well as pictures of the elegant restaurant itself. Please stay tuned, the best is yet to come. Good Day.