There’s a lot more to Colombian coffee than the icon Juan Valdez – the beloved and famous fictional character that appeared in National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia advertisements since the 1958. Colombia has a deeply entrenched history with coffee.
The first coffee crops in Colombia can be traced back to the year 1730 after the Jesuits brought coffee seeds to South America. However, there are some that say tradition speaks of a traveler from Guyana who passed through Colombia on his way to Venezuela, introducing coffee during his travels.
The first Colombian coffee crops were planted in the eastern part of the country, and the first commercial production of coffee was registered in 1835. When coffee began to be cultivated in the northeastern part of Colombia, credit was attributed to a local priest, Francisco Romero, who required a penance of coffee cultivation after hearing a confession from residents of the town of Salazar de la Palmas in the northeast region. Coffee then became established in the departments of Santander and North Santander, Cundinamarca, Antioquia, and Caldas.
While coffee was cultivated early on in Colombia, it did not become an export until the latter part of the 19th century when the US and other countries began showing interest in the coffee industry there. Large coffee plantations began popping up as Colombian land owners tried to take advantage of this interest. However, the Thousand Days War had a negative influence on landowners and their ability to maintain plantations in good conditions during that time. As an effect of plantation owners attempting to further develop their plantations they became further in debt, and eventually financially ruined. With the ruin of the large estates, however, came one of the biggest changes in the history of Colombian coffee. Small coffee producers began to increase in numbers, and cultivation began to spread to other regions, such as Santander, Antioguia, Viejo, and Old Caldas. These two changed, the collapse of the large coffee estates and the spread of smaller coffee farms, helped lead the expansion of the coffee industry in the country.
Today, Colombian coffee is recognized worldwide as having a very high quality and distinctive taste. It is even a protected designation of origin under the European Union. A good cup of coffee can have a medium to bold intensity, with a complex sweetness, and a rounded fruity profile and creamy body.
Coffee production has declined recently from an average of 12 million 132 pound bags to 9 million bags due to regional climate change and temperature increase.
Key Colombia Coffee Profile Notes
Grow Regions: Santander and North Santander, Cundinamarca, Antioquia, and Caldas
General Cup Profile: medim to strong body, creamy, sweet, fruity