A Focus On: Colombia
Currency: Colombian Peso
Ethnic Groups: 87.58% White Mestizo, 6.68% Afro-Colombian, 4.31% Indigenous, 1.35% Not Stated, 0.08% Other
Area: 1,141,748 km2 Water: 1.2% covered of area
GDP: $314.5 Billion (2021)
Colombia is a country on the northern tip of South America and shares its borders with Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador. Its landscapes range from plush rainforests, golden sandy beaches with crystal clear waters, the Andes Mountain Range and numerous coffee plantations.
The History Of Coffee In Colombia
- Like most South American countries coffee was first introduced by Jesuit Priests arriving from Europe in the mid-16th Century. The story goes that in a small village a priest named Francisco Romero used to tell his congregation that instead of the usual penance at confession, they should plant three to four coffee trees instead.
The first shipment overseas was in 1835 when 1134 kilos headed to the US. and by 1860, coffee emerged as the dominant crop. and tariffs were implemented on to exports which became the main source of government revenue.
By 1875, Colombia was exporting 170,000,000 bags to the US and Europe. Coffee’s importance to the Colombian economy brought about the development of The Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros (FNC) in 1927. This body is responsible for research, technical advisory services, quality control and marketing. Juan Valdez, a fictitious character created by the FNC, is the world-famous moustachioed, mule-riding and sombrero-wearing coffee farmer depicted on coffee sacks and logos. He has very much become the face of the Colombian coffee industry, especially outside of Colombia. The (FNC) was established to defend the interests of coffee producers, and they were funded through a special tax on exported coffee. As expected with organisations, they grow, and it has now become a large bureaucratic organisation. Land reforms in the 1930s relieved the inequality in some land ownership although the inequality had not been as prevalent in the coffee sector, with Colombia favouring small fincas rather than large plantations.
- For many years, Colombia was the number-one producer of washed coffees in the world and the second-largest producer of all coffee just behind Brazil. to Brazil. In 2000, Colombia was surpassed by Vietnam, and then the rust infestation of 2008 set them back significantly. Today they are currently in the top five of coffee production with roughly 10 million bags per year.
Colombians farmers and citizens alike drink a lot of coffee every day; nearly 20% of their annual production.Colombia has over 500,000 farms, most of them farmed by small landholders with less than 5 acres nestled in the hills at roughly 1,200 to 2,000 meters above sea level.
Today, Colombia has 38 crops independent of the FNC and 19 which are Fair Trade. The FNC reports that the vast majority of coffee are grown under shade.
- Colombian coffee today is an excellent example how region can affect coffee character. Colombia is split by the Andes Mountains which themselves are split into three mountain ranges. The strip of mountain ranges runs from the north to the south of the country and provide diverse microclimates, which have different effects on the final taste profile of the coffees.There are approximately 500,000 growers spread over 17 key regions with varying degrees of quality.
It is widely accepted that some of Colombia’s best coffees come from the southwest departments of Huila, Tolima, Narino and Cauca. All the coffee in Colombia is Arabica with key varietals comprising Caturra, Bourbon, Typica, Castillo and Maragogype.Most of these small Colombian farms have their small wet mills which consist of a depulper, fermentation tank and fresh water to wash the coffee. The coffee after harvest is usually depulped in the afternoon, fermented overnight and then dried on patios on the farm. Coffee flavours will not only differ due to the microclimates and varietal grown but also due to the farmer's processing method. Farmers are now starting to experiment with different varietals and different ways of drying such as using raised beds.
We have been lucky enough to roast some very fruity coffees from Colombia over the years. An exceptional one last year was an anaerobic natural, Santa Ana. We spent a few years only roasting washed coffee from Colombia as this is what was available. Now we are spoilt for choice with the many natural processes and variations that the farmers are experimenting with.
We look forward to continuing to roast some of these very special coffees.