colombia

  • Coffee History: Colombia!

    Colombia is the third largest producer of coffee in the world. It's no surprise then that the nation has a rich history with coffee. Join us as we explore the introduction and development of the coffee industry in this wonderful country!

     

    European Influence

    Coffee isn't native to Colombia. The plant was originally brought over by missionaries from Europe in the 16th century. This led to backlash initially. Most natives resisted the encouragement to grow the bean because of how long it takes for coffee plants to produce their first crops. Because of the 5 year wait, many farmers questioned how they would make a living while their plants matured.

    Eventually, priests were able to convince farmers to grow coffee instead of traditional penance. Before long, coffee was thriving domestically. Between colonist love for the beverage and popularity among natives, coffee had been cemented as a cornerstone of Colombia's agricultural landscape.

    From Domestic Treat to Global Trade

    As the world's economy inched towards globalization, Colombia began to trade coffee with it's neighbors. In 1835 Colombia began exporting coffee to the United States. At this point Colombia was exporting 2500 bags of beans to the U.S. 50 years later, that grew to nearly 200,000. Since then, Colombia's coffee exports have topped 10,000,000. This put Colombia squarely in second place in terms of coffee production in the world.

    While Vietnam is now the number 2 producer, Colombia remains squarely in third. Part of Colombia's success is due to marketing in the late 1950s that included the character of Juan Valdez. This character, appearing with his donkey, created a strong association with certain brands and Colombian coffee. This brand association persisted through the 20th century and solidified Colombia as an exporter of quality coffee.

    person holding beans in dark room

    Characteristics of Colombian Coffee

    Colombian coffee is grown at high altitudes. It often shares farmland with rubber and banana trees. This combination of factors, plus the volcanic activity in the nation, creates excellent soil for coffee plants. The coffee grown in Central Colombia tends to be balanced and rich with a heavy body. This crop tends to be great for medium and medium-dark roasts. By contrast, coffee grown in the Eastern region of Bogota is usually less acidic, but heavier and richer. This tends to create full, rich dark roasts.

    With all of this in mind, Colombian coffee works great in a variety of contexts. The complexity and richness leads to unique and interesting single origins. On the other hand, the versatility and base level of quality in Colombian coffee makes it perfectly suited for blends as well.

    We hope this spotlight on Colombia has added some context to your favorite cup of joe! Join us next time for more coffee history!

     

  • Colombian Coffee, Take 2

    For many of us, the image of Juan Valdez is synonymous with coffee beans: The seemingly humble, weather-wizened old man donning a sombrero and a coffee-filled satchel who arrives each morning in your kitchen to fill up your Mr. Coffee. But Colombia's posterchild has aged, slipping from his place as the 2nd largest producer in the world and suffering the ails of economic hiccups and hardships.

    Out-produced by Vietnam about 8 years ago, a steady decrease in new farmers and an aging agricultural tradition, the Colombian government has decided to refocus and spur growth in their largest agricultural export. Economic influences unfortunately took down a number of plantations, and many families with an agricultural history closed down their farms because of an inability to support themselves on the meager revenues their exploits produced. Some went into new careers, such as working in a bakery, while others opted to plant a much more sought-after crop: Coca, the basis for cocaine. Over the past couple of years, however, the Colombian government has begun to invest capital in a renovation of sorts, setting up younger farmers on plantations with younger coffee plants in the hope of revitalizing their participation in the international coffee community.

    They have a couple of challenges, however, that might keep them from ever playing ball at the 2nd tier again: They grow arabica, while Vietnam grows the much heartier robusta, and their sloped terrain makes it impossible for them to use machines in their harvest like the Brazilians. But with a reputation for rich bodied coffee and a growing international appreciation for the quality of handmade goods, Colombian coffee may well be on its way back to posterchild status.

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