Today, Colombia it is recognized as one of the most progressive specialty coffee origins in the world. Temperature, altitude, solar radiation and availability of water influence quality, but soil might be Colombia’s most important component as volcanic ashes provide sufficient organic materials. This enables farmers to grow rich coffee profiles that often include favourable cup characteristics: clean aroma, high acidity and medium body.
Specialty coffee from Colombia is often full-bodied and has a bright, vivid acidity. The profile also reveals an intense aroma, sweet notes, citric fruits and can exhibit qualities of malts, dark cocoa and nuts.
Most coffee grows between 1200 and 1800 m.a.s.l., but in some regions it surpasses altitudes of 2000 m.a.s.l. Common varieties cultivated by smallholders are Typica, Bourbon, Caturra, and Castillo. Castillo is a popular variety in Colombia because it offers a high yield.
Colombia started to export coffee in 1835. The introduction of coffee in Colombia came through Jesuit priests that spread the seed throughout the country in the 16th century. At first, there was a lot of resistance from the people to grow coffee. Mainly because it took 5 years to get the first crop. Legend tells us that a Jesuit priest, Francisco Romero, offered the people to plant 4 coffee trees, instead of giving the regular penance at confession.
The establishment of the Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros, in 1927, is an important moment in Colombian coffee history. Colombian coffee growers started to combine their strengths to defend their rights and to enhance the quality of life for coffee producing families. Each Municipal – City – has their own elected spokesman that represents the local community. It is considered one of the largest agricultural NGO’s in the world.
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More than 550,000 Colombian smallholder families are the engine of the Colombian coffee market. These families are spread out over the 17 coffee departments within Colombia: Caldas, Cauca, Cesar, Narino, Meta, Huila, Tolima, Quindio, Risaralda, Antioquia, Valle del Cauca, Cundinamarca, Guajira, Madgalena, Boyaca, Sandander and Norte de Sandander. The average Colombian smallholder family owns between 2 and 5 acres land to cultivate their coffee.