Single-origin coffee means that the beans are sourced from the same location, region, or farm. Different countries of origin can give you clues about what you can expect from your cup.
Some single origins are known for their acidity, others for their nutty tasting notes, and while some might be less common and harder to find, Colombian coffee is the most popular single-origin that most of us are familiar with.
This article will uncover the history, growing conditions, and regions of Colombian coffee. Then we’ll look at the taste and the best ways to enjoy a cup of coffee grown in Colombia.
Colombia is the third-largest coffee-producing country in the world, right behind Brazil and Vietnam. But unlike the other two, Colombia only produces high-quality Arabica beans.
In Colombia, coffee is not just a crop, it has become a part of the nation’s identity. The coffee industry there employs a half million farmers and is the country’s largest source of rural employment, with over 88% of coffee being exported from the country.
The coffee in Colombia wasn’t always such a hit. In fact, when coffee plants were first brought to the country, in the mid-16th century, the farmers were reluctant about planting them since they would need to wait for 5 years for the first crop.
The story of how coffee harvesting was spread in Colombia is pretty original. It all started when a priest in the small village got the idea that instead of the usual penance at the confession, he would start telling sinners to plant 3 to 4 coffee plants.
Shortly after, the archbishop of Colombia ordered everyone else to do the same, making planting coffee trees the common penance and quickly establishing the roots of the country’s coffee industry.
One of the unique characteristics of Colombian coffee is that it is one of the only countries that produce solely Arabica beans.
This is possible thanks to the excellent conditions for growing coffee. Colombia has the perfect terrain, nutritious soil, a good amount of rainfall, and a high elevation of around 1,200 to 1,800 meters above sea level, which is the ideal setup for producing high-quality coffee.
The main harvest season occurs between September and January, with some parts of the country harvesting coffee for the second time from April to August. This ensures consistent output and export, which contributed to the massive popularity of Colombian coffee.
Apart from the ideal growing conditions, high-quality Arabica beans, and a unique spread of coffee farming, the flavor is what makes Colombian coffee one of the most loved single origins in the world.
When tasting Colombian coffee, you can expect medium levels of acidity, with a bright and lively aroma. The flavors include floral and citrus notes, tropical fruits, red berries, chocolate, and a pleasant caramel sweetness, as well as occasional hints of spice.
In general, Colombian coffee is well-balanced, easy to drink, not too acidic but also not too funky or robust. Its toned flavors make it an ideal candidate for mass production and it is widely considered the most “crowd-pleasing” single origin.
The desirable flavor means it is also commonly used in blends, and the balanced profile makes it suitable for espresso as well as filter brewing methods.
There are around 22 growing regions in the country, which are divided into 3 main zones: the northern, southern, and central regions.
Northern region - this growing region has warmer weather and lower altitudes zones, resulting in lower acidity and full body. The main regions of this zone are the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Perija mountains, Casanare, and Santander.
Southern region - this region is located closer to the equator where the coffee is grown at higher altitudes. This results in higher acidity and more pronounced sweetness in the cup. The main regions include Narino, Cauca, and Huila, south of Tolima.
Central region - this is the largest region that covers almost 14,000 square km surrounding Medellin, and is known as the Colombian coffee-growing axis. Coffees from the central region have a heavy body, rich flavor, and higher acidity.
Coffee in Colombia is exclusively wet-processed, where the pulp is removed and the coffee is fermented before being dried on patios. This results in a cleaner, brighter cup with delicate fruity tasting notes.
The most common varietals you can find in Colombia are Typica, Bourbon, Caturra, and Maragogype.
Since most of the coffee production in Colombia, with nearly 600,000 producers, comes from small farms set on steep hillsides, the mechanization of the harvesting process is hard to implement. This is the reason that nearly all coffee grown in Colombia is handpicked.
While this makes the process more labor-intensive, it also guarantees the superior quality of Colombian coffee.
How to Enjoy Colombian Coffee?
Excited about tasting Colombian coffee? Because of its balanced taste profile, this single-origin coffee is extremely versatile.
Its balance of acidity, sweetness, and body make excellent espresso, while its complex delicate flavors are enjoyable when prepared with a manual brewing method such as V60 or a Chemex.
The coffee from Colombia is likely to please most coffee drinkers and is an ideal option for those just beginning to experiment with different single origins.
Its profile is not too acidic, as might be the case with Kenyan coffee, and not too robust, as Indonesian coffee might be for some.
Its complex flavor makes a balanced espresso and its caramel undertones shine when mixed with milk. At the same time, the nuanced fruity and floral tasting notes are uncovered when enjoyed black or as a cold brew.
Combined with the handpicking harvesting process and the use of 100% Arabica beans, Colombian coffee guarantees an enjoyable cup of coffee, no matter how you choose to drink it.