Colombia's Coffee Farm Region
Colombia has the 2nd largest population in the South American continent. With a population of more than 46 million, it’s the 28th largest in the world. This country is also the home of the world’s 3rd-largest Spanish-speaking population after Spain and Mexico.
A country full of contrasting modern cities and rural farmlands, colonial charm and a diverse culture, Colombia’s economy has steadily grown over the past decade. Colombia is now becoming a top Latin American business center and a popular tourist destination.
Colombia is a land of vast rain forests, huge mountains, sprawling savannas, and a population that is as varied as its landscapes. Colombia is the fifth-largest country in Latin America and it has the second-largest Spanish-speaking population. It is also nicknamed “the gateway to South America” because it is situated in the northwestern part of South America that connects to North and Central America.
History of Colombian Coffee
Exactly when coffee arrived in what is now Colombia is unknown. There are some speculations saying that the coffee beans came with a Jesuit priest, José Gumilla, back in the seventeenth century. But the first coffee shipment overseas wasn’t until 1835, when 2,500 pounds of coffee were exported from Colombia to the United States. In the pre- and post-independence era, the elites controlled most of the agricultural exports done on large-scale latifundos.
By the year 1860, coffee became the top agricultural export of the country, and shortly thereafter, tariffs collected from coffee exports had become the main source of revenue for the government.
The Land of Colombia
Colombia is divided into two parts by the Andes Mountains, which splits into three mountain ranges as they stretch from north to south. Most of the coffee in Colombia is grown in this area. Just about three times the size of Montana, this small nation contains two of the five “biodiversity hotspots” of South America.
The Tumbes-Choco hotspot can be found on Colombia’s coastline, while its mountain ranges are mostly covered by the Tropical Andes hotspot. Conservation International notes that the Tropical Andes chain holds about one-sixth of the plant species in the world, regarding it as the “richest and most diverse region on Earth”.
Key Coffee Regions in Colombia
The Colombian Coffee Growing Axis can be found in the Paisa Region. Also known as the Coffee Triangle, it has three main departments in its area: Risaralda, Quindio and Caldas. With a total combined area of 13,873 square kilometers, these departments are among the smallest areas in Colombia, covering only about 1.2% of its land. UNESCO declared this region a World Heritage Site back in 2011.
- Antioquia: Formerly the “wild west” of Colombia for many years, Antioquia was almost entirely settled by gold miners. During the late 19th century, coffee was introduced to the fertile, mountainous borderlands of the department, and Antioquia became Colombia’s most important coffee-producing area. Because of the western and central mountain ranges that crossed the region, it offers ideal growing conditions for coffee.
- Chocó: Most coffee from this region is grown near the city of El Carmen de Atrato, with only a steep ridge separating it from southwest Antioquia. Eastern Chocó used to be one of Colombia’s key regions in producing coffee during the late 19th century and early 20th century; however, most of these areas are now covered in a very dense rainforest that stretches hundreds of kilometers, which makes most of these areas inaccessible.
- Nariño: This region can be found in the far south area of the country bordering Ecuador in the high peaks of the Andes mountain range. Because it is so close to the Equator, coffee can be grown at very high altitudes in this area. Several farms can be found on mountainsides with altitudes of 2000 meters above sea level.
- Santander: Typica and Shade coffee can be found in large quantities in this area, and a vast majority of these have Rainforest Alliance certification. This area has a lower growing altitude and a micro-climate that is drier.
- Sierra Nevada: A mountain range isolated from the Andes, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta reaches an altitude well over 5,000 meters above sea level. Along the northern coast of the country, most of the coffee farmers in this area are part of either the Kogui or Arhuaco native tribes.
Colombian coffee CHARACTERISTICS
Most coffee reviews tend to note Colombian coffee as having a medium body with a citrus-like acidity and a very rich taste. The classic Latin American mild, fruity flavor is characterized by the best high-grown Colombian coffee, though not the type of fruity taste that tastes almost like it’s fermented.
The high amount of coffee grown in the country (Colombia produced around 10% of the coffee in the global market back in 2015) means that these high-quality Arabica beans are also some of the most dynamically-priced on the market, and serve as a base for many coffee blends and brands. The downside to how ordinary these coffee beans are is that most people will find them very “mild,” as they’re accustomed to the flavor.
Colombian coffee BLENDS AND BRANDS
Colombian Supremo Peaberry: This organic, fair trade-certified, medium-roast coffee possesses an intense and deep flavor. These coffee beans are the most outstanding in the coffee harvest. With a single, large rounded seed instead of a pair of flattened ones, Peaberry coffee beans make up only about 5% of any coffee harvest.
Colombian Supremo: Hailing from the Colombian Supremo Andeano Estate, located at a very high altitude in the Colombian Andes, this coffee possesses a pleasant and smooth level of acidity. It is a full-bodied coffee with a smooth finish and a nutty overtone.
Colombian Medellín Excelso: This Colombian coffee bean is an affordable option. Colombian Medellín Excelso gives a bright flavor with some hints of cocoa and nuts and a fruity finish.
Café Don Pablo: This coffee brand is a popular organic coffee, and it’s another affordable option. With a low acidity, this coffee has a mild flavor with some hints of cocoa. Because of its mild flavor, this coffee complements sweet snacks well.
Colombian Coffee Culture
Most people can’t get through their day without coffee, but for Colombians, that would mean the collapse of their entire economy. With 560,000 coffee farms, coffee is the biggest export and the most popular drink in Colombia.
For many Colombians, drinking coffee isn’t just to kickstart their mornings. Drinking coffee is also a form of social activity, a way to catch up with friends and family. Coffee breaks are common in workplaces, and coffee is usually served after meals.
While the typical Spanish word for coffee is “café”, the word Tinto is more commonly used in Colombia. With thermoses full of coffee, vendors push their small carts yelling “Tinto” as they pass by. You might not be familiar with the coffee these vendors are selling.
And no, it’s not a Decaf Soy Latte with a pinch of cinnamon. If you’re thinking about competing in the Iron Man competition before drinking tinto, that would actually be a brilliant idea after you empty your cup.
Tinto is both sweet and very strong. Tinto is usually served in plastic cups that are slightly bigger than that of a shot glass. These small portions are a good thing, considering how munch punch tinto packs into each cup.
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