Colombian or Colombia coffee is a distinct type of arabica coffee that has maintained notoriety for its classic taste, excellent quality, and national history.
In one year, the production of Colombian coffee beans is estimated to be around 14 million bags. This figure demonstrates the popularity of Colombian beans in the global coffee industry.
What Is Colombian Coffee?
Here’s a comprehensive guide detailing what this coffee is and what differentiates it from other varieties.
Introduction to the Colombian Coffee
If you’ve ever perused the local coffee and tea aisle, you’ve probably seen the word “Colombian” displayed on many coffee varieties. Sure, you’ve heard of the country of Columbia, but what makes the coffee special?
If you’ve had the chance to taste Colombian coffee along with other blends, you may already know what the fuss is about. Perhaps you already love this type and want to learn more about what makes Colombian coffee so good.
You can distinguish this coffee by a few features. As the name indicates, it only defines coffee grown in Colombia. Additionally, true Colombian coffees must consist of only Colombian Arabica beans and not Robusta.
This beloved bean, paired with Colombia’s climate and superior farming, creates the smooth coffee many generations have loved.
Why Is It Different From Regular Coffee?
Columbian coffee is not entirely different from coffee varieties grown elsewhere. Rather, Colombian coffee offers subtle improvements that help elevate the finished drink.
You might find that sipping on a latte made with good Colombian coffee provides a smoother, lighter taste. That could be partly due to the more gentle flavors of the arabica coffee beans favored in Colombia. Arabica coffee tastes less bitter than robusta blends or mixtures of arabica and robusta.
A higher level of acidity in arabica beans creates flavors perceived as brighter and more fruity than some darker beans. You may also notice notes of creamy chocolate in your Colombian-origin coffee. These notes are absent in robusta blends.
The resulting smoothness from the low bitterness and high acidity creates rich flavors people love.
Why Is It Popular Among Coffee Drinkers and Millennials?
The Colombian coffee industry has flourished as a proud national industry for almost 200 years. Because of this strong heritage, Colombian coffee has achieved a reliable and classic flavor many lifetime coffee drinkers appreciate.
One of Colombia’s greatest sources of glory, the coffee plantations’ production heritage extends far beyond that cup of joe you may be sipping on. These standards show through the Colombian coffee growers’ highly active nonprofit organization, the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia, also known as the National Colombian Coffee Federation, or FNC. The FNC provides:
- Activism for the well-cared-for trees
These protective measures extend from seed and genotype preservation to disease prevention to picking and washing standards. This commitment to excellence throughout the lifespan of every bean is what leads customers to take notice.
A long-successful Colombian coffee campaign by the FNC is the Juan Valdez figure, beginning in the late 1950s. Valdez is an imaginary Colombian farmer who displays the pleasure associated with Colombian coffee production.
Labeled by some as the first single-origin Colombian coffee line, this image of a hardy farmer boasting his quality coffee has remained a source of pride for millennial coffee drinkers.
The long-standing techniques of coffee farming consider many critical factors:
Region and Climate
You may have guessed that the ideal climate and conditions provide much of the success behind Colombian coffee. This nation’s high standards and selective farming areas enable coffee groves to get planted in the best conditions for flourishing.
Coffee grows best in higher altitudes, so Colombian farmers place their crops on the lower portions of Colombia’s Andes mountains and other highland locations like the Sierra Nevada. The nutrient-rich volcanic soil and frequent shade provide the most desirable environment for coffee trees to grow.
Planting at an altitude as high as 6,400 feet in shady, humid conditions create flavorful acidity levels. It also increases the powerful richness that Colombian coffee enthusiasts love.
In these elevated tropical areas, mild daytime temperatures and cooler nights keep the bean coffee trees in a temperate and stable climate. This crop also fares best when frequent rain showers occur throughout the year.
The Colombian coffee triangle is a region that produces the majority and the best Colombian coffee. It consists of the Caldas, Risaralda, and Quindio departments.
Climate change in Colombia may increase the intervals between rain and droughts. This change may force farmers to move their crops to higher altitudes or change their products altogether.
Growing and Harvesting
You may picture groves of coffee trees that immediately produce the coffee beans we love in our morning espresso. But, many prerequisite steps in the farming process are needed to produce this beloved bean.
Arabica trees produce a mixture of red and green cherries, which ripen slowly. These small fruits contain two coffee beans, called a pip. As long as a farmer’s crop never becomes compromised by disease or insects, coffee trees should yield fruit twice a year. Harvest usually occurs in spring and fall.
A farmer will anticipate their crop to flower in the summer, indicating that the harvest will arrive soon. Though coffee trees are loved for their aromatic coffee beans, the arabica trees also produce delicate white flowers during summer.
To extract the matured beans from a tree’s red or green fruit, a farmer must first pick the ripe coffee cherries by hand and wash them immediately to maintain ideal conditions. This intensive labor yields coffee that is of higher quality compared to mechanized picking in other countries.
Once the whole-bean coffee has been picked and cleaned, Colombian farmers prepare bags of green coffee. They then ship tons of beans worldwide to be roasted and sold.
A Colombian coffee consumer will need to know the details about the finished product, including:
- Where to buy it
- What roast to choose
- What flavors to expect
- How much caffeine it contains
Colombian coffee occupies a unique position through availability in classic and specialty coffee spheres.
This availability means you can find major coffee brands selling a Colombian coffee blend in the convenient pre-ground form. Though some chains may use the label as a marketing tactic more than a true statement about the coffee’s origin, you can investigate the contents by looking for 100% arabica. Words like “single-origin” will help you determine your coffee’s roots.
You may prefer to buy your coffee from a specialty roaster or a local shop. Luckily, you can expect to find Colombian coffee among the available blends in these locations as well. Some authentic Colombian coffee suppliers include:
- Juan Valdez
- Don Pablo
- Cafe la Morelia
Generic and specialty brands of Colombian coffee can be found in many stores and online shopping sites.
You may have to buy a few batches in different roasts before understanding what flavors you enjoy. While these beans can be more expensive than other varieties, they are still affordable.
If you have the opportunity to taste various coffee blends and roasts, you may know that the quality and timing of a roast will affect the flavor as much as the origin of the beans does.
In short, roasting is the critical process of applying heat to a green batch of coffee beans. As the raw beans rise in temperature, the chemistry changes to alter the following aspects:
- Moisture content
A properly roasted coffee bean becomes brown and dry, then gives off the characteristic coffee aroma. This heating process occurs as quickly as possible to bring out the desired flavors. Due to the time-sensitive nature of roasting, the beans must cool quickly to avoid over-roasting.
As soon as coffee beans finish the roasting process, they’re ready to be ground and brewed. You will see many coffee brands advertise the quality of their coffee by saying it’s freshly roasted. Indeed, a shorter interval between roasting and brewing coffee beans drastically enhances the final flavor.
The other factor determining a coffee’s flavor is the type of roast bought. You will find three primary roasts of coffee, including dark, light, or medium roasts.
This range of tastes across roasting levels results from the length of time your coffee beans get roasted. The light roasts receive the shortest roasting time, producing milder flavors with more pronounced fruity, acidic notes. A medium roast provides a balanced flavor. Dark roasts become more bitter as oils get released from the beans.
You can expect a freshly-brewed cup of Colombian coffee to boast complex flavors with a balanced body.
The medium-roast bean can give you a range of lighter flavors and deep notes without being overpowering or bitter. Higher levels of acidity bring out floral notes of fruit and citrus.
Many aficionados also detect sweeter flavors. These flavors include chocolate, vanilla, and cherry in Colombian coffee. The flavors are well-balanced, with an appetizing aroma and a silky mouthfeel.
Arabica coffee contains around half the caffeine content as robusta beans. Since all authentic Colombian coffee should be the arabica variety, the caffeine content for a single cup of coffee will range around 200 mg.
Lighter roasts contain more caffeine than dark roasts, although this difference is small. Coffee beans that undergo more heat during the roasting process will release less caffeine. This reduction occurs because it gets cooked out during roasting.
There are a variety of ways to brew Colombian coffee that preserves the beloved richness of the drink, including:
- Instant Coffee
- Drip machines
Some popular traditional brewing methods for Colombian coffee include immersion methods that enable the most flavor extraction. One of the benefits of brewing with this coffee bean includes the ability to extract fullness without leading to bitter, over-brewed coffee.
Brewing Colombian coffee using the pour-over method enables you to prolong the brew over a few minutes. This method lets the grounds reach their full bloom. Since this method suits light or medium roast coffee, drip-style brewing brings out the brightness of this coffee beautifully.
Another popular brewing method is the Aeropress. The smooth, rich flavor of Colombian coffee complements the immersion of the Aeropress. As you allow the course grounds to develop in hot water, those deep flavors infuse into the coffee. This method creates a sweet and bright beverage that pairs wonderfully with milk and cream.
The suitability of an Aeropress machine is confirmed by Colombia’s national brewing competition, enlisting farmers and enthusiasts to showcase the rich flavors of Colombian coffee. Judges of this worldwide championship taste a spoonful of the coffees, decide which they prefer, and point to the winners.
Though Colombia hasn’t won this world championship, this new FNC tradition helps to contribute to coffee culture and continue the legacy of Colombian coffee.
You can find coffees advertised with the label “espresso” to communicate different features. Most commonly, you will see espresso ground coffee, indicating the coffee makers best suited for this grind. Alternatively, espresso roast coffee may contain dark roast coffee that isn’t necessarily ground for espresso machines.
If you encounter Colombian coffee that includes the label espresso roast, you can expect the flavor to be stronger and slightly more bitter. Colombian coffee makes a good option for this dark roast since the beans contain less bitterness than robusta beans. But, an espresso roast may mask some lighter flavors that Colombian coffee is known for.
Another benefit to purchasing espresso roast Colombian coffee, you can brew this type without an espresso maker. Espresso roasts can be ideal for individuals who enjoy bold coffees with the convenience of traditional brewing machines like drip coffee or a percolator.
For the most concentrated sip of coffee, you can opt for espresso ground coffee. This label indicates that the coffee beans are finely ground. You will need this densely-packed coffee when making cappuccinos and other espresso-based drinks.
Many espresso machines rely on high-pressure streams of water to brew concentrated shots of coffee. Other methods, like the Moka pot, use a percolation system to brew a strong cup of coffee.
No matter how you prefer to prepare your coffee, you can expect a cup of espresso to wake you up with its bold flavors.
Based on the well-established routines of coffee production ingrained into Colombian culture, coffee enthusiasts can have confidence that every sip will be a delight.
Columbian coffee is a high-quality varietal with a strong flavor. If you’ve eyed the Colombian label on the shelves before, find out for yourself what 200 years of coffee-growing expertise can do for your morning cup!