Piquant, nippy, leguminous, and alliaceous. These are only some of the ways in which the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) prefers you describe coffee.
Since 1982 coffee culture permeated the popular realm. Single origin pour-overs, cold brew, vacuum pot coffee. All now prevalent in mass consciousness.
So, why is it that the most popular coffee on the market remains Colombian when there are so many single-origin beans and blends out there? Is there a secret to why Colombian coffee is so incredible? Let’s take a look.
The Geography Makes the Coffee
Anyone who never ventured away from their stale Folgers blend may not even realize coffee is a natural product. That it is, in fact, a fruit plant and what you brew is the seed.
This plant called the Coffea originated in Southern Africa and Asia. Humans transplanted it to other regions where it flourished.
The best soil for coffee growth is volcanic. This soil sits at high elevations between 3000 and 6000 feet. But the coffee plant won’t survive freezing temperatures thus humans cultivated this plant in tropical mountain ranges.
Colombian soil is volcanic, but it’s frost-free, and gets in the range of 80 inches of rain a year. In other words, it has all the soil qualities you’d need to brew perfect coffee.
Of course, the trade-off for a region filled with volcanic soil in rainy mountains is that getting the coffee beans from its home to the rest of the world calls for quite the trek. But most people will attest that it’s worth the trip!
Worldwide Taste Test
Colombian coffee is beloved both within Colombia and around the world. And a big part of that is its availability. First off, if you visit Colombia, coffee is available pretty much anytime, anywhere.
People are even known to drink it before bed, despite it being highly caffeinated!
But it would be hard to convince the world to develop a love for Colombian coffee if you could primarily only get it in Colombia.
But over the centuries, Colombia has put a premium on exporting the coffee to all corners of the globe.
Colombia produces roughly 12% of the world’s coffee. Compare that to their overall land size (only about .1% of the world) and you can see why Colombia is known as a coffee powerhouse.
But the most compelling part of that statistic is that Colombian coffee isn’t mass produced on assembly lines like auto parts or tech gadgets.
Colombian’s pride themselves on making sure that nearly every bean of Colombian coffee shipped worldwide originated on a small coffee farm, and was hand-picked by a Colombian working on that farm. Talk about farm-to-table!
The National Coffee Association even notes this local touch as one of the primary reasons Colombian coffee tastes so good.
Just the Beans, Ma’am
A big part of what gives Colombian coffee its distinct taste is that it’s all made from Arabica coffee beans.
Arabica and Robusta beans are the two primary types of coffee beans. And those with both novice and sophisticated palettes generally tend to favor the flavor of Arabica.
The Arabica has a lighter and sweeter taste than the Robusta. It also has more pronounced acidic notes, and less caffeine per bean. All those make for a taste that is preferred by most coffee drinkers.
So what’s notable about Colombia is that it is one of the only countries in the world that only grows Arabica.
As such, you know that you’ll be getting an Arabica bean whenever you drink a cup of Colombian coffee. Meaning it’s more likely to taste better than a cup from Robusta.
Many countries that export coffee use a form of harvesting known as ‘strip picking.’ This refers to the process of yanking all the coffee cherries from the branch in one fell swoop. And it usually happens by a machine.
However, in Colombia, that process is shunned. In fact, the Colombian process is known colloquially as ‘cherry picking.’
This is because the farmers harvest the coffee cherries by hand-picking each cherry. And they only pick the fully ripe ones, which means only the most flavorful cherries are ending up in your cup later.
This is an important distinction between Colombian coffee harvesting and the harvesting from other countries. Machines lack the capability to tell the difference between ripe beans, unripe beans, overripe beans, and completely green beans.
So in many other coffee regions, the cherries that are plucked from the coffee plants are a mix of great beans and not so great beans.
The Colombian coffee pickers go through a process of examining each tree every 10 days, and then hand-pick anywhere up to 90 kilos of coffee cherries each day.
We Are Family
Most of the farms growing Colombian coffee are less than 12 acres in size. This means that the nearly 500,000 coffee farmers in Colombia are primarily operating on small family farms.
What makes this phenomenon more interesting is that Colombia is generally a country of very concentrated land ownership. But in the early 20th century, many of the migrant workers became tired of the working conditions on large plantations.
So many of them left to start picking in the uncolonized wilderness. And the ones who had some success were then able to buy land in their home towns and start-up coffee farms.
In fact, there is even an important trade association in Colombia that focuses solely on maintaining and improving the lives of the family farms and coffee growers. It also helps promote Colombian coffee around the globe.
Today, over 2 million people in Colombia rely on the coffee industry for their income. That’s 25% of Colombia’s rural population. So it’s easy to see why they put their heart and soul into growing the perfect beans for the perfect cup!
Everyone Loves Colombian Coffee
So, as you can see, both the people of Colombia and of the rest of the world love Colombian coffee.
It’s the perfect climate for growing beans, and provides Colombia with a huge amount of its economic growth.
Have questions, or want to learn more? Contact us today!