The fictitious character of Juan Valdez, with his moustache, sombrero and coffee-bearing mule, has characterised Colombian coffee culture since 1958. Located in the Northwest of South America Colombia is bordered by Ecuador and Peru to the South, Brazil, Venezuela to the East and Northeast, and Panama to the Northwest. Colombia has over 1,800 miles of Pacific Ocean and Carribbean coastline.
It’s not known when coffee first arrived in Colombia, however it is thought that cultivation was initiated in the eastern regions in the 1790s. Colombia has since created a model for coffee production based around the rural smallholder economy, with a focus on cooperatives and associations. In 1927 the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (or FNC) was established; an organisation that assists coffee growers in technical advice, quality control and marketing of Colombian coffee, bolstering the country’s position in the coffee industry.
|Annual production:||13.5 million bags|
|Altitude range:||1000 - 2300 masl|
|No coffee farmers:||500,000|
|Harvest times:||Fly Crop: March – June; Main Crop: Sep - Dec|
|Key growing regions:||Cauca, Nariño, Tolima, Riseralda, Valle de Cauca, Huila, Quindio, Caldas, Antioquia, Cundinamarca, Boyacá, Santander|
|Typical varieties:||Bourbon, Castillio, Colombia, Typica, Catimor, Maragogype|
|Grading system:||Graded by screen size. Supremo (screen size 17) and Excelso (Screen Size 15)|
|Processing type:||Washed, Honey and Natural|
Colombia’s unique topography alongside its rich tradition in smallholder coffee production creates huge diversity in cup profile and quality. Although the majority of Colombia’s half a million smallholder coffee farmers have just 1-2 hectares of land, it’s common for smallholders to process and dry their coffee using their own micro-mill (or "beneficio") and drying infrastructure.
Coffee is handpicked by growers, who select mature cherries for optimum sweetness and flavour development. Traditionally, coffee is wet-processed. Due to the unpredictable rainfall patterns throughout the mountainous growing regions, farmers often develop bespoke processing facilities unique in design and function. Parchment is dried on raised beds, patios or in adjustable plastic-covered polytunnels that protect coffee from rainfall whilst allowing for airflow in hotter temperatures. The quality-focused culture in Colombian coffee production has adopted many of the innovations in Natural and Honey-processing; which is producing some exceptional results. The first variety to be introduced to Colombia was Typica, which is still common throughout the country and represents around 25% of total production. Other common varieties are Caturra and Colombia, selected for their high productivity and resistance to disease.