Colombia is arguably one of the world’s most famous producing countries, partly due to the amount of coffee it produces but also due to the heavy and clever marketing it has invested into its coffee production. It is thought coffee has been grown in Colombia since the 1700s, though it wasn’t until the early 20th century that its production started to become noteworthy, contributing fifty per cent of the country’s total exports. Colombia recognised the importance of coffee and established the FNC (Federación Nacional de Cafeteros) in 1927, a non-profit organisation run by producing members to provide technical advice, research and marketing to farmers across the country. In 1958, the FNC created ‘Juan Valdez’, the moustachioed mule-riding coffee farmer who became the face of the industry and appeared in advertising campaigns and on coffee bags, acting as a brand for loyal coffee drinkers to buy into. Colombia is now the third largest coffee producing country in the world after Brazil and Vietnam and is the world’s largest producer of washed Arabica coffee.
In a country as large as Colombia with an established coffee industry spread over 17 regions, there is of course a huge variation in quality ranging from exceptional to the rather ordinary. There is also huge potential for variation in flavour profiles due to the many different micro-climates and producing areas. Some Colombian coffees can be heavy in body with flavours of chocolate and nut, whilst other can be outstandingly clean and complex with jammy sweetness and citrus notes. The coffee producing areas lie amongst the Andes and the Sierra Nevada where the climate is temperate with adequate rainfall and the hilly terrain means there are a number of different micro climates which will harvest coffee at different times throughout the year. Most Colombian coffee regions will have two harvests throughout the year – the main harvest and the ‘mitaca’ (fly crop). There are more than half a million growers spread throughout the key regions of Nariño, Cauca, Huila, Tolima, Quindio, Antioquia, Cundinamarca and Caldas. Key varietals include Caturra, Bourbon, Typica, Castillo and Marogogype.