Colombian Coffee – History, Facts & Best Brands

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Colombian Coffee

There are a few countries in the world that can be instantly connected to the coffee bean. Without even a whisper of a doubt.
The republic of Colombia is a nation that stands near the very top of this list.
In fact, if you call yourself a coffee enthusiast. Chances are you’ve chugged a cup, or four of Colombian coffee, whether unconsciously, or by design.

Walk with us as we explore the epicenter nestled to the north of the continent of South America. We will be sweeping through the past, peeping in the present, and pressing for the potential future of coffee in Colombia. It’s time to recognize the elements that have placed the country on the top of the coffee map of the world.

About Colombian Coffee

By the end of the nineteenth century, the country found its feet. And coffee became a major cash crop in Colombia. In the early 20th century, the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, also known as Fedecafé, was brought into being. The aim was to look out for the well being of the coffee farmer in the country. They work towards bringing about a positive social impact. Offering research and training opportunities to the local farmers. Today the institution stands for a majority portion of Colombia’s coffee farmers. They are most well known for their “Juan Valdez” marketing campaign.

Over the next few decades the industry flourished. A testament to the fact is Colombia’s seat as the third largest producer of coffee in the world after coffee from Brazil and Vietnam. The brown bean is responsible for keeping close to eight hundred thousand people employed in the country. Their efforts result in delivering 12 percent of the total coffee produced in a year.

History and Origin

Coffee berries

If the words in history books are to be believed, coffee first entered Colombia close to three centuries ago. The brown bean is said to have taken its first journey into the country in the hands of a Jesuit priest. While the climate and landscape of the country proved to be the perfect canvas for coffee to flourish. Locals weren’t very keen on taking up production once they became aware that the rewards could take up to five years to become a reality. In order to encourage some enthusiasm towards planting coffee, Francisco Romero; a priest from a small village, offered up an idea to the Archbishop of Colombia.

A new form of penance was introduced in the country. In place of the usual act performed by Catholics of Colombia, people were asked to plant three or four coffee plants. The results; today coffee farms cover 2.2 million acres of land in the country.

The rest of the world didn’t really get a chance to taste coffee from Colombia till 1835. The first few thousand bags were shipped off to the US. The rest as they say, is history.

Growing Regions

It is a fact universally acknowledged, that the coffee bean grows best at high altitudes and in the company of other trees and banana plants. The shade offered by the foliage prevents the coffee plant from getting burnt. The country of Colombia offers all this and more. Tiny coffee farms can be spotted on steep slopes across twenty two regions of the country.
Since navigating through them all will take more time than we have. We’ve clubbed them up, slotting them into zones. 

Freshly picked Arabica coffee berries

Central

We’ll start big. The central zone is the most talked about when it comes to coffee growing in Colombia. It is after all ground zero for the fated Medellin, Armenia, and Manizales coffee beans. Known well to most coffee connoisseurs of the world as MAM.

The zone produces coffee all year round, on account of the fact that it enjoys a repeat of wet and dry seasons twice a year.The area is known for producing coffee that is higher in acidity than its counterparts from the country.

This zone also contains the Colombian Triangle; the region in the country responsible for producing most of the coffee the country exports. If you’re one for taking names, Antioquia, Tolima, Quindío, Risaralda are all coffee producing regions in the country that call this zone their home.

Southern

Sauntering towards the south of the country, would take you closer to the equator. Coffee is grown in smaller farms, at higher altitudes in this region resulting in more unique and acidic coffee profiles. The area of the “New Colombian Coffee Triangle, comprising the regions of Nariño, Cauca, and Huila. Coffee exiting the region tends to have more fruity and caramel tones.

Nothern

With coffee farms growing at slightly lower altitudes than its counterparts in the country. The beans from this region present nuttier offerings tied together with chocolatey undertones.

The blends exiting the region also boast of being holding a lower acidity when compared with the coffee leaving the other zones of the country.

Eastern

The tiniest of the lot. The Eastern zone of the country has recently gained a lot of attention from the Colombian government. While for now the area encompasses the regions of Arauca, Caquetá , Meta, and Casanare. The local forces are working hard to encourage the coffee industry to grow in the area.

Characteristics

Workers hand picking ripe coffee.

For a country that manages to offer the world close to 11.5 million sixty kilos bags of coffee a year. It should come as no surprise to learn. The coffee exiting the country offers a varied flavour profile. While the overarching umbrella you can place coffee from Colombia underneath angles on the side of medium-bodied acidic beans, with a rich taste and complex flavour. One of the main flavour deciding factors, is the region of the country the coffee beans call their shome.

Coffee growing in the central zone of Colombia for example, brings forth a unique mix of fruit and herb flavours. For a blend that holds notes of citrus you can turn to coffee churning out from the south of the country. For fuller bodied coffees on the other hand, you’re going to have to look to the northern zone, where blends meld classic flavours of chocolate and nuts.

When compared to it’s closest neighbour, Peru, the coffee from Colombia has more acidity and is full of aroma. The Peruvian coffee on the other hand is less acidic and also has less mouthfeel. Hawaiian coffee comes more parallel in taste when compared with Colombian coffee.

Depending on the farm in question, you can also come across a few surprise pops of caramel, apple and berries blended into the flavour of the bean.

Types

When nature provides the perfect blank canvas, you better be sure you’ve got your hands on the right paints. The country of Colombia is gifted with the ideal combination of climate and landscape for Arabica coffee beans to grow and flourish.

Although the growing of Robusta coffee isn’t illegal here like in Costa Rica. Colombia also has absolutely all the coffee growing in the country of the Arabica variety. This means you’re guaranteed lighter beans with more complex profiles.

The subspecies of Arabica beans you are most likely to spot exiting the country include Bourbon, Maragogype, Castillo, Typica and Tabi varieties. The beans in Colombia are also categorised by size. If you come across a bag of coffee from the country wearing the label of Supremo beans. Be assured you’ve got your hands on the largest beans harvested in the country in that year.

Best Methods to make Colombian Coffee

So now you know. Why the world has been knocking on Colombia’s door for a taste of their coffee. We bet you’re in the mood for some too. If you manage to bag yourself a bunch of beans, but don’t really know what you’re going to do with them. Allow us to lighten the burden.

Tinto

There could be no better place to treat yourself to a cup of Colombian coffee, than in the country itself. If by some stroke of fate you find yourself at the epicentre of it all and you decide to indulge in some local caffeine. Chances are, you’re going to come face to face with a Tinto. Literally translated, the word means inky water. This thick concoction of concentrated coffee, is what most Colombians have with their morning breakfast. Should you be in the mood to brew yourself a cup, traditional style, here’s how you can go about it.

Things Needed

  • Coffee – The fresher the coffee the better. While this is true with any method of brewing. When it comes to Tinto the point requires that extra emphasis.
  • A Pan – To hold your coffee as it is warmed over the stove.
  • A grinder – If you manage to bring home a bag of whole coffee beans. There is nothing better than grinding the coffee right before you prepare your beverage. It truly helps you experience the flavour of the bean.
  • Panela (Optional) – If you cannot get your hands on this form of unrefined cane sugar. Any other kind of sugar will do.
  • Milk. (optional) – Whole milk, skim, soy, Almond, coconut or anything else. The choice is entirely your own.
  • Hot water
  • Spoon for stirring.
  • A strainer
  • Your favourite coffee cup

The Brewing Process

  • Start by filling your pan with a cup of water and setting it over the stove and turning the fire on.
  • If the taste of bitter coffee causes you to shudder. Cut a piece of Panela and place it in the boiling water. Allow the sweetness to seep into the water.
  • While this happens, if you’ve managed to bring home a bag of fresh whole coffee beans. Set them in your grinder and world it till you get a coarse grind.
  • Place two tablespoons of ground coffee in your pan and stir for a few minutes.
  • After another two minutes strain the coffee through into your favourite cup. Sit back, sip and enjoy your steaming cup of coffee.
  • If you’re someone who cannot enjoy a cup of coffee black and strong. Feel free to pour in a little milk of your choice to balance it out.

Aeropress

An Aeropress in use

The favourite friend of travellers all over the world. This unusual looking apparatus makes the perfect partner for Colombian coffee. The full bodied beans originating here, suit well with this style of brewing. While the coffee grind size might take a few tries to lock in, an important step you simply cannot afford to skip. Is blooming. Those tiny seconds provide a spectacle and a treat for the taste buds expelling the extra carbon dioxide in the beans.

While there aren’t any rules written in stone. If you choose this as the method to brew. Try to get a hold of a gooseneck kettle so you have better control over the flow rate and direction of water. Most importantly remember to keep your apparatus dry. There’s nothing more frustrating than moisture moving in as your coffee’s arch nemesis.

Espresso

You can never go wrong with an espresso. Whether you choose to brew your shot using a manual or mechanical methods to pull yourself a shot of thick concentrated coffee. It doesn’t really matter. Allow yourself a little freedom to play around till you find a grind size that suits.

Cold Brew

While it is true that a large range of the coffee offered up by Colombia is high in acidity, they do have a few blends that stand on the other end of the spectrum. If you do manage to bag one of those. A cold brew can be particularly rewarding. Colombia, like its Brazilian neighbour has flavours in a glass that can spice up a dull summer day.

5 Best Colombian Coffee Bean Brands

The sure magnitude of the brown bean departing the shores of Colombia to combat coffee cravings of the world would confuse even the most distinguished palate out there. Take a stroll with us through the most favoured brands and blends from Colombia that have caught the world by storm.

1. Don Pablo Colombian Supremo 

A bag of Don Pablo Colombian Supremo coffee

Starting off our list is the Colombian Supremo offered up by the company that literally stands as the face of coffee in Colombia. The medium dark roast offers a rich smooth cup of caffeine. Composed of high quality Arabica beans, a cup of Colombian Supremo carries the characteristic citrus notes of Colombian coffee. It will leave you with a pleasant finish with slight tones of chocolate and walnut. 

The blend is GMO free so be assured there won’t be any Genetically modified elements interfering with the taste of the beverage.

5LB Don Pablo Colombian Supremo - Whole Bean Arabica...
  • Mild, sweet, and rich with a very smooth...
  • 5Lb Bag - Medium-Dark roast - Whole bean...
  • Medium bodied with low acidity

The coffee is roasted in tiny batches so you’re assured a fresh batch whenever you order. You can enjoy a cup of the Colombian Supremo blend hot, choosing to brew with either a drip machine or French Press. If cold coffee is more your style. This blend translates wonderfully to the iced variety as well. The people at Don Pablo are so sure you’re going to love what they have to offer; they’re willing to refund you if you don’t.

2. Volcanica Colombian Peaberry

Volcanica Colombian Peaberry coffee

The next blend on our list is composed of a unique variation of 100% Arabica coffee beans. Peaberry beans sit in the premium category for coffee lovers all over the world.

The medium roast blend forms a rich cup of coffee that holds layers of chocolate, malt, walnut and cherry within its creamy folds. The beans are grown at a height of close to six thousand feet in volcanic soil. The result is a crop that is showered with nourishment and flavour as the coffee grows.

The coffee in this blend is grown without any chemical herbicides or pesticides altering the taste. In fact all the steps involved in getting you your coffee; from growing the bean, to processing and packaging it and finally shipping it out. Everything is done organically. The blend is also Fair Trade certified. Which means everyone involved through all the processes is treated and paid fairly.

3. Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC, Dark Colombian Supremo Coffee

Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC, Dark Colombian Supremo Coffee bag

Thundering into our list next is a dark roast by the Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC. Composed of Caturra and Castillo beans; get ready for a strong serving that holds hints of honey and cherry with a sinfully smoky finish. The bold blend offers the perfect punch to start your day.

The roast is both USDA Organic & Fair Trade certified. Which means you are assured that every stage of the coffee bean, from birth till consumption is taken with keen respect for all people involved. With an aim of keeping an eye on their imprint on the environment, the blend is also a part of the Rainforest Alliance. The coffee beans used in the blend are roasted in an environment Friendly Loring Roaster.

Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC, Colombian Supremo Coffee,...
  • FRESH ROASTED COLOMBIAN SUPREMO COFFEE Is...
  • CATURRA AND CASTILLO VARIETALS. Grown at...
  • COFFEE FOR EVERYBODY - sustainably sourced...

The beans are packed immediately after roasting. So you can be sure they’re fresh.

4. Koffee Kult Colombia Coffee Beans 

Koffee Kult Colombia Coffee Beans

Catapulting next into our list is a blend presented by Koffee Kult. Composed entirely of single origin beans hailing from Huila; a region to the south of Colombia.

The crisp cup of coffee holds a medley of chocolate and cherry with a sliver of caramel hidden inside. A treat for more than just your taste buds. The chocolatey aroma that builds every time you brew will work wonders and could actually turn you into a morning person. This is one of the few blends holding beans from Colombia that are relatively low in acidity. So reach for them if you’re someone who worries about the impact of caffeine on your digestive system.

The coffee is organically sourced and roasted to in small parts encourage fresh deliveries. The coffee gets to your door in a re-useable bag.

Koffee Kult Colombian Huila Fresh Coffee Beans - Whole...
  • ✔ Great aroma while whole, while ground,...
  • ✔100% Columbia Huila Speciality Grade fresh...
  • ✔ Artisan roasted fresh to perfection...

While we’re not really here to tell you how to brew your morning cup of Colombian coffee, do try whipping up an espresso for yourself with these grinds. You’re not going to be disappointed.

5. Folgers 100% Colombian Medium Roast 

Folgers 100% Colombian Medium Roast coffee

Closing up our list we have the medium roast, presented by Folgers. With over a century committed towards offering colourful blends of coffee, their smooth Colombian contribution does not disappoint.

The beans the blend is composed of have all been gathered using sustainable practices. The coffee has even been UTZ Certified. You even get an interlocking aroma sealer canister which will ensure the coffee grinds stay fresh in your kitchen pantry.

Folgers 100% Colombian Coffee 10.3 (2 Pack)
  • Folgers Coffee
  • 10.3 oz can
  • 2 Pack

To get the best out of this blend. Try brewing it using a French press. However if something iced is more your style, the cold brew does pull out the flavours in the blend beautifully.

FAQs

How are coffee berries collected from the plant once they’re ready.

All the coffee is handpicked by workers in every single coffee farm in Colombia.

How is the coffee growing in Colombia processed after it is picked?

Coffee in the country is entirely wet-processed. Water is the instrument used to separate the coffee beans from the fruit.

At the End of the Day

The little brown bean from Colombia has been a top pick amongst the coffee community for over a century. A fact, the people of the country are very aware of. While Colombia has had few ups and downs on its road to global caffeine domination; make no mistake.
They’re on their way to the crown.
Colombia has the people, persistence and product to make it all the way to the top.