Origin Deep Dive: Colombia
As the third largest coffee producer in the world, Colombia has a well established reputation. Both in quality and quantity, it is a country known internationally for its huge output of high quality coffee and internally for its celebration of the bean.
THE HISTORY OF COFFEE IN COLOMBIA?
Introduced to the country sometime in the early to mid-1700s, coffee production slowly grew over the next century and was largely dominated by sprawling plantations built with borrowed money from foreign countries. When favourable prices suddenly disappeared due to war and economic instability in other parts of the globe, many plantations shut down operations or were abandoned. By 1875, coffee farming had largely shifted to small holders working on tiny parcels of land as government policy worked to reintroduce Colombian beans to the global market. To this day coffee is treated favourably all around the country, with infrastructure for farming and exporting being maintained by the government as well as unions of farmers who have worked hard for generations to present the best coffees they can to the world.
Nariño is a region made up of primarily smallholder producers. With the average farm size being less than 1 hectare, many of the farmers have formed groups to work collaboratively. The region is home to some of the highest-altitude farms in Colombia. This, paired with its close proximity to the equator, creates an ideal environment for growing vibrant and complex coffees.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a rebel group, had control of the Tolima region for many years. During this time, farmers were unable to export their coffee. 10 years ago, since the signing of two peace treaties with the indigenous groups and farmers, the coffee farmers in the region have been able to resume growing and exporting coffee.
During the FARC’s occupation of the region, the farmland was untouched. This resulted in soil that was free of any agrochemicals. Because of this, farmers in Tolima have been able to use organic farming methods more easily compared to other regions.
Something that sets Colombia apart from most other countries is their harvest. While most countries harvest cherries once a year for 2-3 months straight, Colombia is one of the few places in the world where most farms have two separate harvests every year. Meaning they produce coffee year-round and are almost always selling. They also host two Cup Of Excellence events annually to make sure no farmers miss out on the chance to compete.
Colombian coffees are usually considered crowd pleasers, but have a varied taste profile as the terroir and microclimates of different regions can change this. Depending on the region, the sweetness can vary between tropical and stonefruits, or it can be smooth and silky like milk chocolate. In some varietals grown in specific microclimates, you can sometimes even get floral and tea-like qualities. Colombian coffees are often heavier on the body while still remaining fairly silky and usually finish smooth and sweet, leaving delicate flavours in the aftertaste.