In 1996 in California, a certain Michel Norton, owner of Kona Kai Coffee was sentenced to 30 months in prison. Apparently for an extended period of time (some reckoned a decade may not be an over estimate), cheaper and “lower grade” Panamanian and Costa Rican coffee were used to pass off as “Pure Kona Coffee”. Cheaper, certainly, as you would not otherwise be doing it. But, INFERIOR? I think many would certainly dispute that. I do not think you can really use an inferior product to pass off as something superior and fool people for long.
So the Ambassador of Panama in Washington D.C. wrote to the New York Times:
To the Editor: I read with amusement about the indictment of a coffee supplier on selling fraudulently marked beans to retailers (news article, Nov. 13). Without making light of the charges, I am pleased that the coffee buyer for Peet's Coffee and Tea is uncertain that he can tell the difference between the ''cheaper'' Panamanian beans allegedly substituted for the more expensive Kona. Panama's coffee is among the world's best. In fact, members of my staff have seen Panamanian beans for sale at high-end coffeehouses for little less than Kona. Perhaps we can arrange a taste test of Kona and Panamanian coffee for the sellers mentioned in the article. I am sure that no one will be more pleased with the results than my native coffee growers.
Ambassador of Panama, Washington
The Cockroach Catcher was fortunate enough to have visited both Costa Rica and Panama. Costa Rica coffee is quite well known but few people realise that Panama produces coffee. I was determined to find out more about coffee grown in Panama.
Plants need to struggle to produce the kind of ‘poison’ against diseases, and coffee apparently is no different. This is well known for wine: vines grown in abundant sunshine may produce wine with a high alcohol content but does not produce enough of the ‘poison’ that humans love — we call the ‘poison’----- anti-oxidants.
Now even for the wonder malaria drug, Artemisinin, the plant Artemisia annua if cultivated with good fertilisers will not produce the anti-malaria ingredient at all.
Yes, plants need to struggle. Shade, and a misty atmosphere all work together to help the coffee shrubs struggle and help certain varieties of to develop health conferring properties, although the yield is lower than if you apply fertilisers and cut away the shading trees.
It is a common practice for politicians to ignore professional advice.As The Cockroach Catcher, his wife and friends cruise across this greatest of all human endeavour, he likes to re-post one of the Panama Posts.Sometimes they might get away with it; sometimes it led to failure, gross failure as in the case of the French attempt at building the Panama Canal.Can we really learn anything from such a colossal failure.
Most people probably know about the French failure to build thePanama Canal. Many thought that this was due to yellow fever and malaria which were diseases thought to be due to some toxic fume from exposed soil.
In 1879, Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps, with the success he had with the construction of the Suez Canal in Egypt just ten years earlier, proposed a sea level canal through Panama. He was no engineer but a career politician and he rejected outright whatthe chief engineer for the French Department of Bridges and Highways, Baron Godin de Lépinay proposed, a lock canal.
The engineer was no match for a career politician:
“There was no question that a sea level canal was the correct type of canal to build and no question at all thatPanamawas the best and only place to build it. Any problems – and, of course, there would be some - would resolve themselves, as they had atSuez.”
“The resolution passed with 74 in favour and 8 opposed. The ‘no’ votes included de Lépinay and Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. Thirty-eight Committee members were absent and 16, including Ammen and Menocal, abstained. The predominantly French ‘yea’ votes did not include any of the five delegates from the French Society of Engineers. Of the 74 voting in favor, only 19 were engineers and of those, only one, Pedro Sosa ofPanama, had ever been inCentral America.”
The French failed in a spectacular fashion.
Cost to the French: $287 Million (1893 dollars) or $6.8 Billion (2007 dollars)
Many reasons can be stated for the French failure, but it seems clear that the principal reason was de Lesseps’ stubbornness in insisting on and sticking to the sea level plan. But others were at fault also for not opposing him, arguing with him and encouraging him to change his mind. His own charisma turned out to be his enemy. People believed in him beyond reason.
Could any of us learn anything from this experience?
Hermione: "You pay a great deal too dear for what's given freely". -