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Colombian Coffee – Grown on Sunny Slopes of Andes

Colombian family farms produce two coffee harvests a year. The impact of coffee bean origin can be detected in the flavour: beans grown in the south have citrus notes, those from the central area are fruity and herbal, while beans from the north have traces of nuts and chocolate. 

Colombian coffee comes almost exclusively from arabica cultivars. This is because the volcanic soil, annual rainfall and high altitudes of 900–2,000 metres of the main coffee-producing regions provide an ideal environment for arabicas. Coffee is grown in the western parts of the country throughout the three mountain ranges running parallel to the Pacific coast. 

Colombia’s 22 coffee growing regions can be divided into the northern, central and southern ones. Most of the coffee harvest is produced in the central and southern areas, while the main areas for organic production are the north and the south where the soil is naturally favourable to coffee farming. Organic production only accounts for a few per cent of the total, but its volume is growing strongly.

Colombia produces two harvests of single origin coffees a year

Lying directly on the Equator, Colombia is one of the few coffee producing countries with two harvests a year: one in the autumn and the other in the spring. With two harvests there are fresh beans around the year. Coffee is grown on small family farms on the steep slopes of the Andes. 

”Farm size here is only a few hectares, and traditional methods, most of which are manual, are still used. The coffee plants often grow on slopes so steep that picking by hand is practically the only option,” says Paulig Senior Sourcing Manager András Koroknay-Pál, who visited Colombia in early 2017.

How is coffee originating from Colombia processed?

”First, the skin and pulp of the fruit – called the coffee cherry – are removed and any poor-quality beans discarded. Next, the beans are fermented for 12–24 hours. After this, the beans are in most cases sun-dried, but some farms also have machinery for this purpose. Many still transport their crops to buyers traditionally on muleback.”

The slopes of the Andes have the clearly distinct dry and wet seasons typical of the equatorial climate where summers are rainy from May to November and winters are dry, making them ideal habitats for the coffee plant. The flavours of the coffee produced may, however, vary considerably between the regions depending on soil type, altitude and other natural conditions.

In Colombia there may even be big differences in flavour between coffees from farms located right next to each other – such distinct microclimates are characteristic of Colombian coffee farming. There are also many different arabica cultivars grown, which also affects flavour. 

What does Colombian coffee taste like?

For example, in Southern Colombia the equatorial sun, the nutrient-rich volcanic soil and the humid air rising from the valleys enable coffee farming at altitudes up to 2,300 metres, which is higher than anywhere else. Coffee originating from these areas has a medium-bodied mouthfeel, clean aroma and high acidity.

In northeastern Andes, coffee is grown at the considerably lower altitudes of 1,000–1,600 metres, producing medium-bodied coffees with balanced acidity that have flavour notes of chocolate and softness and sweetness in the aroma.

”You can spot Colombian coffee on the basis of its characteristic flavours and acidity. In the south the flavours are citrusy, in the central region fruity and herbal and in the north there are traces of nuts and chocolate,” Koroknay-Pál describes.

Follow our Senior Sourcing Manager András in Colombia at @paulig_travelling Instagram!