As the world's third largest coffee producer, chances are if you've ever had a cup of coffee, you've tried a Colombian coffee at some point. This country is home to many unique coffees due to its diverse landscapes. Colombia is blessed with no shortage of mountaintops or rainforests, two coatlines and everything in between. This wide variety of habitats means that coffee farms will all vary in factors imapcting coffee such as climate, altitude, harvest time etc.
Coffee is thought to have been first introduced in 1723 by the Jesuits who arrived with Spanish settlers. Production and harvesting began exclusively in the northeast of the country, but soon the crop's lucrative nature was well known and small family farms all across the country began to adopt coffee as their cash crop. By the end of the 19th cetury it was a staple crop for most farmers in the country.
The first export of coffee from Columbia wasn't recorded until the first decade of the 1800's. By 1912, coffee made up half of all exports in the country.
Colombia realised how valuable marketing is to success, and created Juan Valdez in 1958, the mascot representing Colombian coffee: a representation of a local coffee farmer with a mule by his side. Juan Valez appeared on bags of coffee and various advertising campaigns. Juan Valdez was suddenly a point of recognition. The character was built on the success of buzzword campaigns such as "mountain grown coffee" or "100% Colombian".
Colombian Coffees have a huge range of flavour due to its variety of landscapes and growing conditions. They range anywhere from the rich, chocolatier coffees through to sweet and fruity cups. There's a wide spectrum of flavour to be found in the country and when you add in the variable of processing such as washed, natural, anaerobic etc. you suddenly have nearly limitless potential for what this country can achieve in coffee.
Cauca: This region produces a stable and consistent yield year round. This is due to the attractive growing ocnditions provided by the altitude, its' proximity to the equator, and the moutains which protect the coffee form the humidity. The notable volcanic soil in the region also benefits the coffee immensely. There is also a very predicatable rainy season from October to December that factors into its stability.
Valle Del Cauca: The valley of Cauca is well known as one of the most fertile areas in the country with close access to a large water source and mountain ranges. Most farms here are pretty small but yield generous amounts. There are 26,000 farms here under 200,000 acres owned by 23,000 families,
Tolima: This area has suffered a lot from internal conflicts within the countyr and a sa result quality coffee from this region is rare. Most speciaity coffees found in this region are produced in micro lots by co-operatives.
Huila: The area of Huila has a combination of great soil and great geography for growing coffee. The flavours from here are often complex and fruit-driven. Our El Mirador filter comes from this region of Colombia, in fact.
Quindio: Coffee is an incredibly important player in the economy of Quindio due to the regions high levels of uneployment. However climate change has impacted the results of production so much that a slow transition towards citrus fruits and nuts is becoming more andmore common now. Quindio is home to the National Coffee Park, a coffee inspired theme park focusing on the production and education surrounding the ever loved bean. At the end of June every year in the municipality of Calarca, a National Coffee Party is held celebrating all things coffee, including a coffee beauty pageant.
Risaralda: This large region is home to many cooperatives. Coffee plays an important social and economic role in the region, providing jopbs and employment to many. The coffee industry spared the region from the worst part of the economic depression. This area is also a transport hub for the regions of Caldas and Quindio, this route is popularly known as "The Coffee Highway".
Narino: Some of the highest quality coffees can be found in the Narino region. Coffees grown hee yield a stunning and complex flavour profile. This is due to the extremely high altitudes, however, it is also a lot more challenging to grow coffee here, making the high quality results at the end even more valuable and rewarding. Farms here are extremely small, only 4.4 acres.only 37 producers in the region own land of more than 5 hectares in this region.
Caldas: This is one of the three regions in the Colombian Coffee Growing Axis that also make up the Coffee Highway. Between them they grow a large share of the coffee in the country, which historically is some of the best in the country. The region is also home to National Coffee Research Centre, and it is here where most of the international breakthroughs in coffee are discovered.
Antioquia: The birthplace of coffee in Colombia. This is a key growing region with some of the largest farms and co operatives with around 130,000 hectares of land.
Cundinamarca: Known as one of the highest capital cities in the world, at 2,625 metres. This was the second region in Colombia to prduce coffee for export, peaking just before WW2. At that time it produced about 10% of the nation's coffee, but has since declined. At it's peak this region had over one million coffee trees yielding high quality crops.
Santander: This region has a little less altitude than the others, which is evident in the round and sweet coffees they produce. A lot of this coffee is certified by the Rainforest Alliance, due to the weight placed on this regions imapct on the country's bio-diversity.
North Santander: A region in North Columbia bordering Venezuela and is thought to have been possibly the first area to produce coffee in the region.
Sierra Nevada: This is another low altitude region with rounder and heavier coffees. Coffee here is grown in the Andean mountains on incredibly steep hillsides that offers a significant challenge to the farmers. Sierra Nevada often translates into most Spanish-speaking countries as "Snow-Topped Mountains".