Colombia is one of the largest producers of coffee beans in the world, and has been since the coffee plant was first exported during the 19th century. Roughly 10% of all the coffee beans in the world come from Colombia, around 11 million bags of coffee beans a year. So, why are Colombian coffee beans in such high demand, and what makes them so special?
History of Colombian Coffee Beans
Originally coffee was discovered in Africa sometime around the 15th century. It is believed that Jesuit missionaries were the first to bring coffee to Colombia in the mid 1700’s. Colombia started exporting bags of coffee beans in 1835, and by 1860 it was Colombia’s top export. Today, Colombia is the third largest exporter of coffee beans in the world, only behind Brazil and Vietnam.
It’s All About the Location
Colombian coffee is known for its rich, mild flavor. But why does it taste so good? Location, location, location.
Coffee grows best in volcanic soil between the elevations of 4,000 and 6,000 feet. Generally, the higher the elevation, the better your coffee will taste. Coffee requires at least 80 inches of water a year, and only grows between 30 degrees North and 30 degrees South. This area is referred to as the Coffee Zone or Bean Belt.
So, coffee grows best in volcanic, mountainous, wet, and tropical or sub-tropical regions. In North America that means Coata Rica, Nicaragua, and Hawaii are the best regions to grow coffee. In Africa, countries like Ethiopia and Tanzania qualify as good coffee going regions. And in Asian, countries like Indonesian grow great tasting coffee. In case you didn’t know, the island of Java, in Indonesia, is the origin of the popular coffee nickname.
In Colombia, the small towns and cities in the hills of the “Zona Cafetero” are the perfect region to grow high-quality coffee. The tropical, wet climate, volcanic soil, and high altitude of this area are perfect for growing high-quality coffee beans.
Choosing the Right Type of Bean
Arabica and Robusta are the two types of coffee beans that grow in the world. Arabica beans are slightly sweet with a soft taste. They also tend to be more acidic. And while Robusta has a stronger taste, it is considered lower-quality than Arabica. Robusta also has more caffeine than Arabica beans. Roughly around two times more the caffeine than Arabica beans. Many brewers will mix Arabica and Robusta beans together to balance the flavor and increase the caffeine content of their coffee.
Colombia is one of the few countries in the world that only grows Arabica coffee beans. Only using Arabica coffee plants in combination with the perfect coffee growing climate, make Colombian coffee some of the best in the world.
Harvested with Care
We know that choosing the right type of coffee bean and the right location help determine the quality of the bean. But what about the harvesting process? Well, it turns out that the way the beans are harvested also affects the taste of Colombian coffee.
It takes around five years for coffee beans to ripen. And to make things even more interesting, coffee beans from the same plant don’t ripen at the same time. These two factors make it difficult to streamline the harvesting process. Harvesting the coffee beans too late or too soon can negatively affect the taste of the coffee. You don’t have to worry about this problem with Colombian coffee beans.
All the coffee beans from Colombia are harvested by hand. Yep, you read that correctly. All the nearly 600,000 coffee producers in Colombia harvest their coffee beans by hand. Because they are harvested by hand, all Colombian coffee beans are harvested at exactly the right time.
Bringing it all Together
Colombia is responsible for producing some of the best coffee beans in the world. But it isn’t just one factor that makes them so good. It’s the combination of using the best type of coffee trees, the climate they are grown in, and the harvesting process that makes Colombian coffee beans so desirable. The next time you drink a cup of Colombian coffee, you will know why it taste so good.