Discover the world of the speciality coffee and its origins through your calendar. This month, we take a look at one of the world’s favourite speciality coffee growing regions, Colombia.
It’s February and that means one thing, aside from us in the UK finally beginning to thaw out from the winter! Coffee harvesting in Colombia has been in full swing and its fruits are beginning to arrive on our shores in Europe. With that in mind we’ve taken a closer look at a truly amazing place and a staple comfort for speciality coffee lovers.
Colombia Coffee Production
It is the third most prolific coffee growing region in the world behind Brazil and Vietnam, providing over 810,000 tonnes each year – that’s enough for around 45,000,000,000 espressos! It should also be noted that Colombia produces the highest concentration of Arabica beans. As a coffee region Colombia is known for producing mild washed beans with balanced flavours, the best examples of which are found in its speciality crops.
It’s amazing to think that coffee plants were once alien to Colombian soil right up until the first few arrived by boat around 400 years ago, but coffee has become integral to Colombia’s economy and its culture. The land is a geographical patchwork of mountains, rainforests, valleys, plains and coastal regions that provide the perfect conditions that coffea arabica plants love. This makes for some stunning scenic views as well as increased potential for producing delicious beans year on year.
Thanks to consistently favourable weather conditions, Colombia is one of the few growing regions where good quality coffee can be grown all year round. Farms can generally enjoy two harvests each year, one from April to July and another at the end of the year.
Dig deeper into its 350,000 acres of fertile coffee growing areas and we can begin to discover the true beauty behind speciality coffee production in Colombia. According to Mercanta, Colombia invests more than any other region into scientific research, with Colombia’s National Centre for Coffee Investigation (Cenicafe) contributing to improving efficiencies, quality and the wellbeing of farmers for more than 60 years. That’s not surprising considering that coffee contributes more than $2.45 billion to the country’s economy each year.
Most farms are also family owned, with over half a million different farmers (and their families) contributing to overall production. Farms covering an area as small as 12 acres are the most common, with the famous Colombian Coffee Growing Axis or Triángulo del Café being the main hub of activity. This mountainous area in the north west of the country – east of Cali – includes some of the world’s most notable growing towns, including one of our favourites, Huila.
If we can draw a comparison between speciality coffee and fine wine, this region in Colombia is the coffee equivalent to the Dordogne River region of Bordeaux in France or Italy’s Piedmonte region.
Unsurprisingly, there is a consistent supply of high scoring coffees coming out of Colombia and the competition is fierce for the coveted Cup Of Excellence Award in the country. Last year’s winner came from Quindio, which is another famous growing region at the Cumaral farm by Andres Londoño Montoya. Their Geisha Bourbon variety mix scored an amazing 91.08 points out of a possible 100 with the world’s most discerning tasters!
So what can you expect to taste in a great cup of Colombian speciality coffee?
With any cup, what you’re really looking for is a pleasant balance of sweetness, acidity and bitterness. Body and aromas are also important but can be more down to personal preference too. Colombian Arabicas can offer all of these sought after elements in abundance, but look out for higher levels of acidity and citrus aromas that ultimately deliver a clean and vibrant cup.
This is in part down to the higher mountain regions, beyond 2000 metres above sea level in some cases. The cooler climate helps to protect the cherries from ripening to quickly, which allows for those really delicate and delicious flavours to develop.
Colombian specialities will bring an added brightness and zing to any espresso blend, they’ll make amazing single origin espressos when roasted well. Look out for them as a guest filter option next time you’re in a coffee bar, as an aeropress or drip-filter can be the best way to enjoy these truly special beans.
Famous Regions: Triángulo del Café in the North West
Common Varietals: A lot of them! Caturra, Castillo, Variedad Colombia, Tabi, Bourbon, Typica
Common Processing Methods: Usually washed
Growing Altitude: 1000-2000+ masl
Flavour Notes: High acidity, Medium-High body with zingy citrus notes