History of Colombian Coffee and why it is famous?

A table loaded with Colombian coffee beans.
A table loaded with Colombian coffee beans.

What’s the history of Colombian Coffee and why is it famous? The chances are for all of us coffee lovers, is that we have most certainly sampled the delicious brew from South America.

Let’s deal with the history first. Colombian Coffee according to legend was introduced to South American by Jesuit Missionaries back in the mid-1700s. The powers that be had tried unsuccessfully to persuade their people to grow coffee.

Why was there so much resistance? Well, it would take 5 years for a coffee tree to produce its first crop. Understandably they were worried about how they were going to survive during that time.

From the very first penance the history of Colombian coffee began.

One particular Jesuit priest called Francisco Romero came up with a brilliant solution. Every time penance was required with a confession, he ordered each person to plant 3 to 4 coffee plants.

As soon as the Archbishop of Colombia heard of what Francisco was doing, he quickly ensured all the Jesuit priests did the same. This firmly paved the way forward for the history of Colombia coffee to begin.

It was not until 1835 that this delicious coffee started to make its way outside of the Colombian borders with its 2500 bags to the USA.

The next milestone for the history of Colombian coffee was not long in coning.

Twenty-five years later Colombian grown Arabica coffee, as opposed to the cheaper Robusta, became the number one exporting product with over 170,000 bags heading to the USA and Europe. The lucky & hardworking Colombians coffee farmers have never looked back.

Currently, they are exporting around 11 million bags per year.

Colombia has remained a firm favourite around the world for high altitude grown coffee and is only beaten by the mighty Brazilian and Vietnam output.

So what makes the history of Colombian coffee so famous and compelling?

Back in 1959, the National Federation of Colombian Coffee growers created a marketing campaign that was so successful the whole world stood up and listened to the message of their coffee through the eyes of their fictitious character known as Juan Valdez.

I must admit when I first heard the name Juan Valdez I had no idea he was not real. Six years ago I found out he was invented to promote Colombian coffee. In fact, I was amazed, and I became curious to learn more with regards to the history of Colombian coffee. I found it exciting did not stop me enjoying the richness of each cup I drank.

What else guaranteed the success of Colombian coffee?

The country’s perfect geography of being mountainous and tropical is the primary reason. Not forgetting, its endless volcanic soil and breathtaking elevations reaching as high as 1,800 metres. (6000 Feet)

If you are reading this article and living in Scotland, Ben Nevis is a toddler in comparison with its impressive 1,345 metres. I only mention this comparison to give you all an idea what Colombia has.

Its climate allows the coffee bean to flourish and grow into a rich, full-bodied taste. Not withstanding a perfectly balanced flavour.

The bean loves the volcanic soil and the bonus of growing inside of the coffee belt of 30 degrees North and 30 degrees South. You will see them shaded by vast communities of rubber trees and banana trees.

The majority of coffee farms and fields are outside of areas that are prone to frost. Coffee beans do not flourish in frost. In fact, they hate it, and will not survive.

They do enjoy the rain and never complain if there are 80 inches of rain in any one year.

Now compare that with the typical annual rainfall for various cities in the UK with Birmingham 26.8 inches and London at 23.3 inches. So the next time you guys start moaning about the rain, consider the inhabitants inside the Colombian coffee belt.

The nearest town in the UK that challenges Colombia each year is Princetown in Dartmoor Park with its average rainfall of 78.7 inches.

What areas and cities make up the Colombian Coffee growing region?

You will find the fincas (Spanish for farms) between the three large cities of Bogota, Medellin towards the north of the country and Cali in the southwest.

Locally it is known as Eje Cafetero or Zona Cafetero (translated as the Coffee Axel.)

If like me you feel the urge to learn more of the history of Colombian coffee, you will be pleased to know if you also love football there is a football team named oin honour of the delicious brew.

The name Los Cafeteros is also the official name for Colombia’s national football team.

National Federation of Colombian Football Logo.

As soon as you drive outside of any city. Head in the direction of Manizales. Salento, Cordoba or Armenia and you will find yourself in the rolling green hillsides. You cannot fail to see millions of coffee shrubs in every direction.

Even the farmers can be seen in their unique cowboy hats and ponchos that keeps them warm and dry.

It is accepted that the further up the mountains you go the higher the quality of coffee you will come across.

Colombian mountains in the background with two cups of coffee at the front.
Colombian mountains in the background with two cups of coffee at the front.

Thus, leading to the fact – with Colombia’s high altitude geography, blended with its tropical and wet climate, all cemented with mountains of volcanic soil all point to the ideal conditions for coffee growing.

How do the Colombian farmers harvest their coffee beans?

The inside of a coffee cherry and a coffee bean.

The majority of the fincas are small. Each farm will pick their coffee cherries, then separate the hard bean found inside of each cherry from the outside skin. They will wash and dry each bean and finally sell their produce to a local cooperative.

Each cooperative will then negotiate with leading names such as Starbucks, Costa Coffee and other leading household names. As well as artisanal cafes, grocery stores and superstores such as Tesco and Walmart.

At this point the beans sold are shipped overseas to be eventually roasted, grounded and brewed.

Does history show Colombians drink their own coffee?

In the coffee regions, the answer is an overwhelming yes. But in the cities, you can find many locals who have no idea what a cappuccino is.

The city dwellers drink gallons of black coffee known locally as Tinto.

Colombian Tinto.

I have been told the majority of Tinto is made from inferior beans that are rejected for exportation. There are many occasions I can vouch for this belief. But, I can also quote endless enjoyable moments supping a rich tasting Tinto.

I love partaking Tinto with no milk and no sugar. I accept that being served a cracking good Tinto is pot luck. But, when I compare the coffee, I have experienced from many well-known outlets in the UK.

I will always sing Tinto’s praises above the tasteless alternative often found in large containers back home.

As you can guess from my writing, I am Colombia’s biggest fan of their coffee culture. From my initial touristic visit of Parque De Cafe back in 2013 to sitting today in my home brewing my latest cup of Expresso six years later. I love everything about the history of Colombian coffee.

The famous Parque de Cafe in Armenia.

So much so that in the coming months I will be importing Colombian Indoor coffee plants to the United Kingdom. There I hope to share via Garden Centres and individual Artisanal Cafes the unique and rewarding aromas of Colombian coffee plants. You never know one day you may well find me on a page or two adding my Englishness to the history of Colombian coffee.

For more insights into the world of coffee, please click on the following articles and Mike would love to read your thoughts.

An Englishman’s journey with the world of coffee

What is coffee?

What is the incredible history of coffee?

Mike’s Bio

Mike Bowley is an Indoor Coffee Houseplant & Colombian Giftware Importer, SEO Content Writer, Baby Boomer, and published Author. He thrives on creating alliances with UK based Artisanal Cafe Owners and the UK Based Garden Centers with artisanal product makers in Colombia.

He enjoys helping “Newbie” website owners & fellow Baby Boomer Online Entrepreneurs to getting their organic and relevant content onto web pages and mobiles.

Mike has spent over 50 years in sales and marketing, and now shares his life and work between the UK and Colombia. He is also a regular writer on both Viviamaridi and WattPad.

Visit his author’s website here: mikebowley.com.

March 2019

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