WHAT MAKES COLOMBIAN COFFEE UNIQUE?
A lot of the coffee that originates from Colombia is grown on small family-run farms. Many of these farms are smaller than 12 acres. There are roughly half a million families working incredibly hard to bring us these tasty green beans.
Colombian coffee is made using 100% arabica beans, even though they yield less than robusta. There’s a strong emphasis on quality, due to the way the entire coffee industry is setup in Colombia.
A TRADITION OF PRIDE
The small farms work together to meet the world’s demand, and there’s a sense of pride that goes into each cup that you won’t necessarily find from large-scale corporate farms. That’s not to say that Colombian farmers are the only ones that take pride in their work, not by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s just something special about the way they do it there.
"If you take care of the cherries and pick them at the right time, the best flavor comes from that coffee. What makes Colombian coffee more expensive is that it’s still hand-picked; part of the success is picking the right bean at the right color. That requires a lot of expertise."
Carlos Rojas – Executive President of the National Association of Colombian Exporters.
SMALL FARM QUALITY
It’s not practical to pay as much attention to detail on large-scale farms, but as the saying goes, many hands make light work.
Workers will check the plants every 10 days or so during the harvest seasons, and will pick the best cherries by hand, leaving the rest to continue maturing until it’s the perfect time to pick them.
This varies from other regions, where they’ll use a practice known as strip picking, which means they’re picking all of the cherries from a particular branch at once, regardless of whether they’re all ready to be picked yet or not.
It’s not just the harvest method that defines Colombian coffee. It’s the growing conditions on the steep slopes of the Andes, which include ample sun and a high altitude.
The best way to understand the flavors at play is to sip it for yourself. There are 22 distinct coffee growing regions in Colombia, which are divided into three main groups:
These three distinct flavor profiles, and the fact that Colombia has two yearly harvests, make it a very unique country of origin that is tricky to pin down with any one flavor. Variety is part of how you would define the taste.
Juan Valdez is the well-known mascot of the Federation, often seen standing next to his mule named Conchita and used as a marker to identify that is 100% Colombian, as opposed to blends of coffee that use multiple origins for their beans.
Juan Valdez, while a common name, is not a real person – he’s a fictional character who represents the countless farmers of the region. He has appeared in advertisements for decades, and is a very recognizable figure.