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Coffee 101: Coffee Origins – Colombia

Oct 8, 2019 | Coffee, Coffee & Tea 101


Colombia is the world’s third largest coffee producer, trailing only Brazil and Vietnam. Unlike those countries, however, which also farm Robusta coffees – Colombia produces only 100% high-quality Arabica beans, and is responsible for approximately 12% of all coffee production worldwide.

Without question, Colombian coffee has become world-famous, and is perhaps the first nation that springs to mind when people think about imported beans.

You can probably thank Juan Valdez for that.

A Brief History

Coffee is believed to have been introduced in Colombia in the early 1700s, perhaps brought there by Jesuit priests.

The first documented shipment occurred in 1835, when 2,500 pounds was exported to the United States. (Today, the country ships an average of 10-million 130 lb. bags, overseas annually.)

In 1927, the FNC (Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia), or Colombian Growers Federation, was established to provide support to growers and raise awareness worldwide.

The Federation’s greatest marketing asset would be born 32 years later, with the arrival of spokesperson Juan Valdez. Representing all Colombian coffee growers, this fictional character – frequently pictured with his loyal burro Conchita – would kick start a decades long advertising campaign that remains untouched by any other coffee growing nation.

A Brief Glance at Colombian Coffee

With its volcanic soil, cooler temperatures, elevations reaching 6,400 feet, and more than adequate rainfall, Colombia provides pitch-perfect growing conditions for the wet-processed, top-tier Arabica coffee it’s known for.

Colombia’s coffee is shade-grown and picked by hand by the nation’s more than half a million coffee farmers. Harvest takes place from September to December, and again from April to June, on small farms (less than 12 acres) that are family owned and operated.

A number of varietals are produced throughout the country, boasting a number of different qualities. Colombia’s flavor profile, therefore, is somewhat diverse – but is typically hallmarked by medium to high acidity and mild, well-balanced notes of citrus, nuts, and chocolate.

Interestingly, its beans are some of the few that can be roasted dark without becoming bitter – making Colombian coffee a favorite among espresso makers.

Three of Colombia’s most prestigious coffees hail from the same central growing area, and are recognized by the acronym MAM (Medellin, Armenia, and Manizales). These coffees are known for a heavy body and rich flavor, as well as a fine acidity.

Bogotá and Bucaramanga make up the eastern mountainous region of Colombia. Coffees from the former are typically less acidic, rich and bright, while Bucaramanga yields a milder, heavier bodied, and rich coffee, reminiscent of Sumatran coffees.

Now that you have learned more about Colombia, grab a bag to try today!