Why Colombian coffee quality is recognized worldwide
Colombian coffee enjoys great prestige in international markets, not only because the country is one of the largest producers and exporters, but because of the excellent quality and unique flavor of the coffee grown and produced in Colombia. Even if the coffee plant is native to Africa, it was introduced into Colombia since the late 18th century and quickly became the flagship product.
Carlos Osorio, Buencafé’s Director of Research and Development, explains that this recognition is the result of the combination of several factors that we explain below:
1.The species. Commercially there are two species commonly used: Arabica and Robusta. Colombian coffee is of the Arabica type, which is milder and more delicate. Particularly Colombian coffee has notes of acidity and fruity and floral aroma, which translate into international recognition.
2. Agro-climatological conditions. In Colombia there are mountainous and volcanic soils, with different altitudes and temperatures to grow coffee. Mountain coffee is characterized by being milder within the Arabica ones, grown at higher altitudes (between 1,000 and 1,800 meters). In addition, volcanic soils represent nutrients to coffee plants, giving sweetness, flavor, and other special features that soils in other countries lack.
3. Coffee institutions. Coffee farmers in Colombia are organized around the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), an institution that does not exist in any other part of the world. This support is reflected in various aspects, especially in best agricultural practices and a team of over 1,000 agronomists who visit the farms and teach farmers the best practices.
“In Colombia, unlike other countries, coffee beans are selected one by one by picking those with the adequate ripeness level, not collecting green beans (which result in an astringent taste, not so pleasant). For this reason, this selection makes production more homogeneous and the flavor more pleasant.
Another important aspect to achieve quality coffee is that “We use the adequate fertilizers and we control pests biologically to use the least amount of chemicals. All this results in a better quality product and a much more homogeneous production throughout the year,” engineer Osorio said.
Coffee institutions also guarantee that production will be sustainable over time, generating confidence among customers and consumers.
Colombia has the privilege of having separated harvests in the first and second semester, which enables us to offer a reliable and high-quality supply. Coffee institutions guarantee coffee growers the purchase of their crop so they have enough income to fertilize their plants and renew them periodically.
The FNC has agricultural engineers, trained by its National Coffee Research Center (Cenicafé), who know coffee farming details and transfer their knowledge to farmers. There is also the Manuel Mejía Foundation, where farm managers are educated to then give their team the right instructions on planting, fertilization and harvesting.
“Long-term sustainability is the FNC’s primary approach, with a coffee sector that doesn’t use up resources over the years. This also involves people and that’s why we encourage and give young people guarantees so they remain in the countryside. Some years ago there were works to improve road infrastructure, schools and health centers; if they had not been done at that time, today we would lack the possibilities to compete in prices in the markets. Today we continue working in all sorts of improvements, because what we do today will lay the foundations of the future,” Osorio noted.
The FNC is also responsible for supplying seeds, ensuring that they are of the adequate variety, resistant to diseases and much more productive.
4. Wet milling. Wet milling coffee is separating the components (peel, pulp, mucilage and bean) with the help of water. In some countries this separation is done through a method called natural milling, which is letting the cherry dry and then separate the components. The disadvantage of this method is that drying is not perfect and generates fungi and toxins in the bean. In Colombia, the separation is made with water and the fruit still ripe (by fermentation or mechanically), so coffee is free from pollutants and flavor is much more consistent over time.
“Some countries also have the Arabica species, many have mountains and occasionally volcanic soils, but none has all the work of the coffee institutions behind, which leads Colombian coffee to be recognized worldwide for its consistent and excellent quality, reflected in the flavor, aroma and fragrance,” Osorio pointed out.