main content
Colombian Coffee Header

Colombian Coffee and Culture

Famous for its alluring charm and natural beauty, scenic mountains, tropical rainforests and stunning beaches, Colombia is home to the superior coffee bean, Arabica.

In 2020 Colombia amounted to nearly 14 million 60-kilogram bags of Colombian coffee beans, with the country dedicating over 850 thousand acres of land to this crop. As well as being home to some of the oldest indigenous populations in the world, with roots dating back to 15,000BC, Colombia is emerging as a major tourist destination and is ranked as the third largest coffee producer in the world.

If travelling to Colombia and trying some of the world’s best coffee is on your list of things to do, then carry on reading to immerse yourself in a full Colombian coffee experience.

Colombian Coffee History

Colombian Coffee History

Coffee was first introduced into Colombia in the early 17th century by Jesuit priests who arrived with Spanish settlers. The first crops were harvested in the Northeast of Colombia, but soon coffee was quickly adopted across the nation by small, family farms, known as Finca’s.

The first commercial export of Colombian coffee beans didn’t emerge until the first decade in the 18th century. The first shipment of Colombian coffee beans was the start of what would become a major industry. During what was called ‘The Thousand Day War’ the growing industry hit a brief decline. Due to the lull in international coffee prices, many plantation owners were forced to split up the farmland among workers, which gave them local ownership and independence over their own Finca’s. In the early 19th century, a now peaceful Colombia had created a logistic system, allowing rural, small-estate farmers to export their coffee more efficiently. This kick-started a new age growth and gave those farmers a way to carry on producing Colombian coffee, which now accounts for roughly 12% of the worlds coffee supply, with Colombian coffee being one of the biggest names in the coffee industry.

In 1972, the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia was created to protect the interests of coffee growers. The organisation rapidly expanded and now represents a large portion of Colombian coffee farmers. Over the next few years Colombia grew to become the world’s 3rd largest exporter of coffee.

Colombian coffee beans, Arabica coffee, needs to be grown at altitude and between the two tropics, ideally with two wet seasons and volcanic soil. Colombia offers the perfect growing conditions for the Arabica bean, offering the ideal weather and geographical conditions for producing coffee, which is considered some of the best in the world, and is a source of national pride for all Colombian coffee farmers, with coffee growing being the largest source of rural employment in the country.

Colombian Coffee Culture

Colombian Coffee Culture

Colombia has a reputation for being one of the happiest countries in the world. So, what's the key to happiness? Is there something in the coffee?

Unfortunately, due to its mass exportation of coffee beans, the very best usually ends up outside of the country, however, coffee culture plays a strong role in the national happiness of the Colombian people. Unlike some European countries, where the culture surrounding coffee is one of a grab-and-go nature, in Colombia drinking authentic Colombian coffee has different connotations entirely. In Colombian coffee culture, the hot beverage has taken on a much more social role, it is the foundation of Colombian social society. It is very common for Colombians to meet up with friends and family over a cup of coffee in rural areas and older people natter away the hours in the day over a cup. Even in work environments, the role coffee takes is obvious, it is used to help with mental nourishment  and is offered in meetings. These key differences aren’t the sole key to total happiness, but as you can see, coffee plays a vital role in Colombian’s enviable happiness.

Colombian coffee is to be enjoyed and savoured, not to be used as an aid to get you through the day, and to stay awake. In Colombia, coffee is usually consumed in much smaller cups – often small plastic cups of sweetened black coffee, known as tinto - This way of drinking coffee has shown a lower number of Colombians suffering from the negative aspects of drinking too much and therefore, being able to simply enjoy the positives of good quality coffee.

In many ways the coffee culture of Colombians could be compared to the culture of Tea in the UK. Colombian Coffee symbolises more than just a hot drink; it is an important characteristic of national identity. It brings people together, creates friendships and relationships, and provides for thousands around the country.

Colombian Coffee Growing Coffee Beans

Growing Colombian Coffee Beans

Colombia is home to dozens of micro-climates, making it a land that is particularly well-suited for coffee growing. The thousands of nutrient-thick hills and mountains, wet climate, and the high elevation make it easy to grow great authentic Colombian Coffee. There is estimated to be over 600,000 coffee producing farmers in the country alone, with the most of them being small and rurally located, though the infrastructure of Colombian coffee production gives them a way to get their crops to market.

The annual export of the nation is between 11 and 13 million bags. Due to the frequent wet climate, the processing method used in Colombia is the washed method, giving the coffee its famous crisp acidity, pleasant sweetness and high level of flavour clarity. There are two harvest seasons in Colombia, the first being in March and the second in June. The smaller harvest period falls between September and December.

Colombian Coffee Flavour

Colombian Coffee Flavour

The flavour of Colombian Coffee is very diverse. Each coffee region produces coffee that tastes slightly different from the next. To the Northern regions of the country, such as Santa Marta and Santander, the lower altitude and higher temperatures result in coffee with full body and deeper notes. 

In the central coffee regions of Antioquia, Caldas, and Quindio, the coffee tends to be well-rounded with a more nutty and chocolatey flavour along with a gentle sweetness and a mellow acidity. Whereas, in the coffee regions to the South such as Nariño, Cauca, and Huila, the higher elevation tends to produce coffee that has a stronger acidity, floral aromas and a complex flavour profile. Colombian coffee is generally a bit weaker than other coffees. That being said, Colombia coffee has a gentler flavour and is superior to some of the stronger, more bitter varieties of coffee grown around the world.

That’s the end of our Colombian coffee journey and the fascinating culture that comes with it! If you want to continue your journey around the coffee hotspots of the world, then why not read our guide on Ethiopian coffee?

Other articles you might be interested in

  • Brazilian Coffee and Culture

    Brazil is widely known for their huge impact in the coffee world, but did you know that it's a big part of daily life too?

  • German Coffee and Culture

    German coffee has a rich history that’s bursting with fascinating facts. Discover the unique coffee types that have been created in this coffee hotspot.