Known for its high-quality Arabica coffee beans, Colombia is the third largest coffee producing country in the world. This South American country is bisected by the Andes Mountains and has some of the world’s most biologically diverse landscapes. Colombian coffee has a global reputation as having a rich yet mild flavor perfect for blends.
Colombia takes coffee growing very seriously and has built a reputation on producing only the highest of quality coffee beans. Since the first commercial coffee production in 1808, Colombia has maintained a serious commitment to only growing Arabica beans, no Robusta. The National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia was founded in 1927 as a non-profit business cooperative to promote and monitor Colombian coffee production and exportation. The Federation ensures that quality standards are met and that the coffee industry is protected and growing.
In Colombia, coffee beans are exclusively wet-processed using water to separate the coffee cherry from the surrounding pulp. The natural water sources flow from the Andes mountain range into the country’s drainage basins. Wet processing coffee beans results in a cleaner, more brightly acid flavor of coffee. Coffee bean cherries are picked grain by grain and dried in raised drying beds. Made up largely of small farms among steep hillsides, mechanization in Colombia is nearly impossible. Although the process is less efficient, it does result in an overall higher quality coffee product which is what makes Colombian coffee so famous.
Colombia Coffee Regions
Coffee beans are known to grow best in volcanic soil in the altitudes of 4,000 feet to 6,000 feet. Coffee beans must also grow in areas that are free of any frost and receive at least 80” of rain each year. Close to the equator with two biodiversity hotspots (the Tumbes-Choco hotspot on the coast and the Tropical Andes hotspot in the mountain ranges), Colombia has ideal growing conditions for producing high quality coffee.
There are two main coffee growing regions in Colombia: a large central region known as the Colombian coffee growing axis and an eastern mountainous region. The coffee growing axis, or coffee triangle, is part of Colombia’s Paisa region and includes the cities of Medellin, Armenia and Manizales (MAM region). The smaller, mountainous eastern region surrounds the cities of Bogotá and Bucaramanga. The rich and diverse Colombian Andes provide high altitudes, fertile volcanic soil, wet climate, and the shade of rubber and banana trees intercropped with the coffee bean plants.
Colombia Coffee Flavor Profile
Generally mild and full-bodied, Colombian coffee is best known for having a well-balanced flavor perfect for blends. The easy-drinking, clean nature of coffee beans from Colombia mellow out the intense flavored coffee beans from other countries. Most commonly, hints of chocolate, mild fruits, and caramel are brought to the forefront of the taste and aroma. Although Colombia only produces wet washed, Arabica coffee that is often shade-grown, not all Colombian coffees have the same flavor profile. The diverse landscape of mountains, rainforests, and coastlines produce a range of varieties and coffee flavors. Central Colombia produces the heavy bodied, balanced acidity coffee while the more mountainous regions in the east produce even heavier, richer and less acidic coffee flavors. The high-altitude coffee beans are grown in cooler mountain temperatures allowing the cherries to ripen more slowly creating the more aromatic and flavorful coffee.
Because of their mild flavor and smooth mouthfeel, Colombian coffee beans can easily handle a variety of roasts. With a light roast, the subtle differences between the regionally grown beans are more easily detected because the underlying flavors of the beans are maintained through the roasting process. Medium roasts have more intense flavors and richer aromas, with the fruitiness more muted and the cocoa flavors more prevalent. The high acidity of Colombian coffee beans takes well to the dark roasts required for strong espresso drinks like cappuccinos and macchiatos.
With its strict Arabica coffee bean only rule and geographically perfect coffee growing climate, Colombia produces some of the world’s best coffee. The incredible reputation that Colombia has gained for its high-quality coffee is well deserved and truly must be experienced firsthand.