According to World Atlas, Colombia is the world's third-largest coffee producer with 830,000 tons per year. For a long time, the small South American country after Brazil was even in second place but was displaced by the rapidly expanding Vietnamese. After all - a total space on the "podium" has remained. The Colombians are still the undisputed leaders in the production of high-quality Arabica coffee - because from Brazil and Vietnam comes to a large extent, the cheaper Robusta. So it is no wonder that Colombia enjoys great popularity with coffee. Here we want to tell you something more about Colombian coffee, its tradition, and its cultivation.
Why is Colombian coffee so Popular?
One of the reasons could be smart marketing of the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (FNC). This initiative, known internationally as the Columbia Coffee Growers Federation, was founded in 1927. It is noteworthy that it is not state-owned, as is the case with comparable institutions in other countries. It owns more than 500,000 coffee growers, making it one of the largest NGOs in the world.
For many years, more precisely since 1958, the FNC advertises with Juan Valdez. Surely you've seen the logo with the fictional coffee farmer who stands next to his donkey Conchita, ever printed on a pack of Colombia coffee. Wherever he is, 100% coffee beans from Colombia are guaranteed - so he should ensure exceptional quality. The Arabica coffee from here is considered one of the best in the world!
The character Juan Valdez has even appeared in movies and now something of Colombia's flagship coffee. And one should not joke about it: the FNC sued a comic artist because it denigrated the famous coffee farmer's name - although both "Juan" and "Valdez" are typically Spanish names. Above you see him in one of the first commercials for Colombia coffee.
Coffee growing in Colombia: taste with tradition
Coffee farming has shaped the long culture and history of the country in Colombia. Even today, there are so many growing areas that we can only imagine a handful closer. They all produce real top coffee, which can be seen in international coffee competitions.
History of Colombian Coffee
Just as the original story behind the marketing of Colombia coffee is also the history of coffee growing very entertaining. It all started when coffee became increasingly popular in Europe in the 17th century - but all attempts to cultivate coffee plants themselves failed miserably. Nevertheless, to meet the demand of the aristocracy and the burgeoning coffee houses, many European nations brought coffee plants into colonies with suitable cultivation conditions. For example, the Dutch initiated the cultivation of coffee in Indonesia, where you can still admire relics of the old colonial masters. The coffee plants finally came to South America via the French outposts Martinique and Guyana.
In Colombia, it was the Jesuits who encouraged the local population to grow coffee around 1723. More precisely it should have been the priest José Gorilla. At first, one was skeptical, since coffee bushes would take a few years before yielding first yields. The coffee boom triggered a high priest:
The Archbishop of Colombia told the people that they should plant 3 to 4 coffee trees instead of the usual confession. And because this practice has become generally accepted, it has laid the foundation for the coffee boom in Colombia. (Coffee Chemistry)
About the rise of Colombia in the coffee League
At the beginning of the 18th century, Colombia coffee was successfully cultivated and exported. Many farmers bought cheap land and devoted themselves entirely to coffee growing fueled by exploding US demand. In Europe, Germany and France became the most valuable customers. But by the turn of the century, when the global economy went into crisis, coffee prices began to fall, and many large landowners could no longer hold their plantations - for which they were usually profoundly indebted. The civil war in the then politically volatile region ("Guerra de Los Mil Días") contributed to the rest.
The time had come for the change in coffee growing and from then on the hour of the small coffee farmers struck. Gradually, new rural areas were created, for which the business paid off by traditional methods and mixed cultures. Finally, in 1927, the smart "Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia" (FNC) 500,000 peasants without state or political influence are formed to this day. It is committed to sustainable cultivation methods, fair prices to international export partners, and uniform marketing and sales practices. Their "account" is the already mentioned success story of using the fictional coffee farmers "Juan Valdez" for an international quality offensive. Besides, FNC has created a unique knowledge center, Cenicafe, which researches, for example, on more productive and resilient plants.
Colombia Coffee: growing areas and farming methods
Colombia's climatic and geographical conditions are predestined for the cultivation of high-quality Arabica coffee. Inland, the shallow coastal regions are joined by the lush green highlands, where coffee plants thrive between 1,200 and 1,800 meters. In the humid and warm climate of the Andes, temperatures are usually between 17 and 23 ° C - it is to be hoped that climate change will not paralyze coffee cultivation in Colombia too much. The soil quality is very rich in minerals due to the volcanic soil, and throughout the year, there are consistent periods of dry and rainy periods ensuring a constant growing and harvesting cycle; this is how the average growing conditions look like, with differences between the different cultivation regions.
The "Coffee Triangle" in the center of Colombia
Probably the most famous region for Colombia coffee, the so-called Coffee Triangle ("Triángulo del Café" or "Eje Cafetero") spans three provinces inland. It has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and holds the "coffee treasure" of Colombia. That's why some tourists visit not only Medellin but also the three coffee regions of Manizales (Caldas), Pereira (Risaralda) and Armenia (Quindío). Here coffee tours are organized, where you can get to know individual haciendas and the work there. In Quindío, even coffee national parks were opened, attracting millions of visitors each year. Who likes it a little quieter, Tolima could fall - another popular growing area, which adjoins the coffee triangle to the east. Or the flatter Valle de Cauca in the west, which is a contrast to the mountainous coffee triangle.
The north of Colombia
One of the more northern growing regions of Colombia Coffee is Antioquia at Medellin, which for a long time was known more for bulk than for quality. Here the average temperatures are slightly higher than e.g., in the south or the more central regions. For decades, one studies in Antioquia, where a coffee farmer is in his mid-50s on average, how to position himself more in the specialty segment. An important role was played by turning away from sun-grown coffee into monocultures into shadow-grown coffee in mixed crops - all of which attract all kinds of colorful birds.
Other well-known growing regions in the north of Colombia are the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta - the highest coastal mountains in the world - and Santander, where coffee cultivation originated in the country.
The south of Colombia
The southern growing regions (e.g., Narino, Huila, South Tolim a) are closer to the equator and slightly higher. As a result, the average temperatures are somewhat lower, which benefits the quality of highland coffee. The taste of Arabica from these regions is unique, with particularly sweet and powerful aromas and slightly higher acid content. It is so in demand that there are specific initiatives for the guarantee of origin.
What all cultivation areas have in common are the methods used in coffee cultivation. It is primarily dispensed with the use of chemicals and other unnatural fertilizers. The coffee is usually picked by hand, which has the advantage that only ripe coffee cherries are selected — cherry picking, in the real sense of the word, which guarantees consistent quality. After harvesting, the coffee cherries are machine washed and fermented in large basins in the sun for hours - increasing the aroma and caffeine content. This is followed by drying, skinning, and machine sorting - until the raw beans are filled into sacks and handed over to roasting companies.
Full flavor: that's what Colombia's coffee tastes like
Full, soft, and aromatic with notes of citrus, caramel, and nut; this is how a real Colombia coffee should taste as a single origin! It is a top product made from Arabica beans, although the taste can of course vary depending on the growing region. Another factor is the quality of Colombian coffee purchases. There are three categories:
- Supremo: Grade 1. Broad coffee beans, medium-bodied flavor, fruity and low in acidity. They are mainly sold in the US specialist trade.
- Excelso: Grade 2. The beans are slightly smaller than the Supremo and are still considered exportable. Velvety-soft taste and acidity. The main customers are Western Europe and Germany.
- Usual Good Quality (UGQ): Coffee beans in average quality.
Try Colombia coffee at home
If you want to test the taste of Colombian beans yourself, here are some suggestions for you:
- Juan Valdez Sierra Nevada. Hoch land coffee with the typical strong-chocolaty taste.
- Juan Valdez Volcán . Dark roast for espresso lovers.
- Juan Valdez Narino. Single Origin from the southerner growing areas.
- Excellent the Mirador Limited Edition. The Cup of Excellence winner from Huila!
You will not be disappointed if you try:
Colombia Enjoy coffee on site
Many a coffee tourist visiting Colombia may be a bit disappointed by the quality of local coffee. The reason is simple: Almost all good whole bean coffee is exported, and in Colombia itself, the UGQ category is mostly used.
A bright spot in the local coffee scene, however, is the city of Medellin, which has blossomed from the former "problem child" to the cradle of modern Colombia. Gone are the days of drug crime: today, Medellin stands for innovation, digital nomads, and delicious coffee. In small cafes such as the Pergamino, care is taken with the help of Nespresso Machine to ensure that only good quality comes into the cup - and of course, it is brewed by hand.
Colombia Coffee: The trend remains
Today, two-thirds of Colombian coffee is grown on new plantations and one-third on small family farms. It enjoys great popularity with export customers, and the individual regions regularly collect prices for their excellent coffee beans. It may not be one of the most expensive coffees in the world - the proud Colombian likes to leave the unusual varieties like Kona coffee from Hawaii or Monsoon Malabar from India. But surely this is one of the best. And even the Pope knows: all you need in life are friends and good Colombian coffee!