One thing we are often asked at our shop in Borough Market, is what makes Colombian coffee so special, and what is the famous 'Mild Colombian' that you read about in coffee magazines? We thought it was time to offer an explanation...
Essentially, Colombia has the perfect climate and geography to product a wide variety of coffee varieties that get top Q-grades from US and European specialty coffee trade associations. No other country in the world scores so highly so consistently, which means that 'Mild Colombian' is a term used as a benchmark in global coffee trading. Incidententally, did you know that coffee is actually the second most traded commodity in the world - after oil?
Broadly speaking, out of 125 different plant species within the genus Coffea we humans drink 3 species: Arabica, Robusta and Liberica - and, of these, Arabica and Robusta account for almost all coffee production - so how do they differ? Essentially, it is to do with caffeine and mosquitos.... The coffee plant produces caffeine as a means of deterring mosquitos; Robusta plants grow at lower altitude where there are more insects, so they naturally produce more caffeine and are therefore more bitter. Robusta varieties are roasted darker to emphasise the more full-bodied and rich characteristics associated with an ‘Italian Dark Roast’. Arabica varieties typically grow at higher altitude and are therefore more delicate when prepared as a drink because the plants produce less caffeine. This characteristic allows for more aromas and flavour notes to come through in Arabica coffee, produced by a range of factors from soil composition to cultivation method.
In Colombia we only grow Arabicas, and we have the largest year-round production in the world thanks to the country’s geography, where the sprawling Andes Mountain Ranges provide an almost endless variety of micro climates. This means that two farms cultivating the same variety but at a distance of 5km away from each other could produce coffee with very different tasting notes. CENICAFE, the Colombian Coffee Research Institute, also supports research to produce new hybrid varieties, such as our beloved Caturra-Timor.
Coffee production presents challenges and opportunities for those who produce it in Colombia. For many, coffee farming is synonymous with sustainability and an intimate relationship with the land, such as the Kogui, Arhuacos and Wiba indigenous communities of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The high mountains across the coffee-growing regions means most farms are tiny compared to the huge farms in places like Brazil and Indonesia, and are owned by independent farming communities rather than by multinational companies. Indeed, for many communities coffee farming is a way to earn an income from a regular crop and work their way out of the poverty and turmoil brought about by the 50 year civil war.
Our mission at the Colombian Coffee Company is to ensure that the communities farming this world-famous coffee receive fair recognition and fair payment. We do this through ethical direct trade and supporting development initiatives in Colombia, making sure that our customers have access to some of the best coffees in the world and our suppliers receive a fair deal