Colombia's Coffee Farm Region
Colombia is one of the biggest producers of coffee around the world. It is well-known for its production of premium Arabica coffee. However, you may be wondering what it is about Colombian coffee that makes it so special, and which type of coffee you should try for an authentic Colombian experience.
Don’t worry, we have got you covered!
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 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 mountainous, with a lot of elevated terrains that contain excellent soil for coffee to grow in. The whole country also has the ideal balance of sunlight and rainfall. The temperature here is great, with perfect soil and the perfect amount of rainfall. That is why Colombian coffee is held in such high regard.
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 classic Colombian coffee profile brings together a strong caramel sweetness and a mellow acidity, along with a nutty undertone. It is very much like the other premium-quality coffees from Peru. Medium-bodied and sweet, it is a coffee flavor that is recognizable to most North Americans.
The high amount of coffee grown in the country (Colombia produced around 10% of the coffee in the global market back in 2019) 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.
Best Brewing Methods for Colombian Coffee Beans
Generally, Colombian coffee beans are best brewed as either Espresso or the Aeropress method.
Colombians will typically boil water and then they will add coffee grinds to a cloth filter and pour the boiling water over it. It is a simple yet effective method.
Sometimes they will make coffee in the morning, leaving it in an aluminum moka pot all day on the back of the stove, simply reheating it throughout the day.
You don’t always need fancy equipment to enjoy a good ol’ coffee.
Preferred Colombian Coffee Roast Types
The type of Colombian roast you choose will depend on your personal preference. You may prefer a medium or light roast, which will bring the beans’ natural flavor out more with a sweeter Arabica texture.
Or, you may prefer a bold, dark roast, which just about approaches being bitter without quite falling into that category.
What are the Best Colombian Coffees?
Now that you have a better understanding of what makes Colombian coffee so amazing, let’s take a look at some of the best coffees to try from this part of the world:
Top Pick: Colombian Peaberry (Volcania Coffee)
Finally, if you like a medium-roast coffee, this Colombian Peaberry is one that is well worth trying. You know you are getting the best quality, as peaberry beans are actually taken from the top five percent of the crop.
These coffee beans are Fair Trade certified and they are grown way up high in volcanic soil at almost 6,000 feet, which is what aids them in delivering so much flavor in just one cup. Plus, they are roasted once you have ordered, bringing maximum freshness.
But what sort of flavors can you expect to experience?
Well, prepare your tongue for notes of cherry chocolate, walnuts, and malt, as well as wood-toned chocolate notes to finish. A true delight!
This coffee is available in whole bean and pre-ground packs and can be found on Amazon. Truth be told, you’re better off ordering direct from Volcanica to ensure freshness:
- The coffee will be roasted to order and on your doorstep in 1-3 days.
- Who really knows how long bags of coffee are stored in Amazon fulfillment centers.
Best Value: Don Francisco’s Colombia Supremo Whole Bean Coffee
Dan Francisco is a brand that has more than 14 decades of experience in the coffee industry!
Their Colombia Supremo offering is a medium roast, which provides a satisfying cup boasting tangy notes and a sweet aroma. Expect a rich and bold flavor.
This coffee may be a little bit too harsh if you are a straight black coffee fan. However, it is affordable and it is an excellent choice for everyday coffee fans.
Best Espresso: Colombia Nariño Tablón De Gómez
A light-medium roast, with tasting notes of golden raisin, lemon, and honey, Colombia Nariño Tablón De Gómez is a true treat!
These specialty beans have been grown in the Narino mountainous region in the south of Colombia. The harvest comes from a number of smallholder farms, which grow Castillo and Caturra beans at altitudes between 5,600 and 6,900 feet. The beans develop a balanced and bright flavor profile, which is indicative of premium high-altitude Colombian beans.
Best Ground Coffee: Peet’s Coffee
If you are not afraid to go for bold flavors and try a dark roast, we think that Peet’s Coffee is going to be ideal for you. You can choose this coffee in a number of grind sizes and it comes in whole beans as well.
Providing a sweet yet vibrant cup of coffee, which is full-bodied and perfectly balanced, you would be forgiven for expecting Peet’s coffee to be more expensive than it actually is.
If Peet’s Coffee sounds a bit too dark for you, there is a lightly roasted blend, known as Colombia Luminosa. You can expect floral aromatics with this blend thanks to the incorporation of Ethiopian beans. This creates a smooth and mild flavor.
Best Blend: Juan Valdez Organic Colombian Fairtrade Coffee
If you enjoy your coffee straight black, Juan Valdez Organic Colombian Fairtrade Coffee is your perfect match. It has a slight amount of bitterness and acidity, which black coffee drinkers are usually looking for.
The flavor is rich and the aromas are strong. Plus, it is always pleasing to see a brand that is Fair Trade and Organic certified. However, it is one of the milder coffees out there, so do keep this in mind.
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 500,000 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.
Time to try some Colombian coffee!
We hope that this guide has given you a better understanding of Colombian coffee and what makes it so amazing.
The growing conditions in Colombia are simply perfect for coffee. From the soil to the temperature, everything is prime to create the most delicious coffee.
Simply use our purchasing suggestions and brewing tips mentioned above to make the most of this!