Colombian Coffee - a short overview of coffee from Colombia and its best US brands
When we buy a package of coffee, we do not always know it's origin, which country is coming from, what kind of coffee it is or how it tastes. But most of us know that Colombian coffee is one of the best out there. Lot of time, the package will say that is Colombian Supremo, but what this name really means? And why is Colombian coffee so special? I will try to answer in this article.
Colombian Coffee comes from Colombia, a country situated in South America. Coffee it is an important factor in Colombia's economy, this country being the second largest coffee producers in the world, after Brazil, for many years, with only 2009 falling on the 3rd place. There are several factors that makes Colombian coffee so unique: the types of coffee that is being cultivated, the environment, the way it is harvest, and the way it is processed.
Type of coffee
Colombia is the biggest producer of arabica coffee, known to be the best among coffee beans.
There are 2 main variety of coffee cultivated around the world: robusta and arabica.Coffee robusta originated in central and western Africa and as present it is highly cultivated in Vietnam, Brazil, Africa and some other Asian countries. Robusta is high in caffeine (1.6% to 2.7%Caffeine) but does not offer too much flavour and aroma. Coffee arabica came from Yemen and it is now largely cultivated around south american continent, has lots of flavor and less caffeine (1% to 1.5%). There are 6 varieties of arabica cultivated in Colombia: Typica, Comun, Bourbon, Caturra, Colombia and Maragogipe.
In Colombia, coffee is grown at high altitudes where the temperature and soil are perfect for coffee berries to develop and mature. The main regions are central and eastern parts of this country.
Coffee grows in the mountains at altitudes as high as 2000 meters above the sea level, close to the equatorial line, in a rich, volcanic soil. This coffee is called Colombian milds. It is regarded as having a high acidity (brightness), fruity aroma and medium and balanced body, therefore making it the best coffee. It is also the most expensive and best selling coffee in the world.
The way the plantation is set or how the green coffee beans are picked also make a difference in taste. The coffee production depends mainly on the weather because if it rains then the coffee is not going to be picked up on time.
Most Colombian coffee is grown in small plantations usually own by families. This style of cultivating coffee trees has been encouraged and protected by the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (federaciondecafeteros.org), a union of local coffee farmers and small coffee producers. The Federation was created in 1927 and had played a big role in exporting coffee in North American continent, its biggest client being United States. Today the Federation has about 500.000 members.
Harvesting and processing coffee
The way the coffee is harvest in Colombia also makes a big difference. Working in a coffee plantation is a hard job. The farmers pick the coffee berries by hand, one cherry a time, selecting only the ripe ones. The level of maturity of beans is one of the criteria on grading coffee.
After the harvest is picked, a second selection takes place, again by hand, in which they separate the good beans from the defective ones.
The post harvesting process refers to the series of activities that are necessary in order to reach a certain quality of beans. Colombian coffee is processed by a method called "wet beneficio" (hence the name washed arabica), that includes depulping, fermentation, washing and drying the coffee beans. Then the coffee beans are separated by size and density, packed and sold. Once a coffee roasting company buys it, it is up to it to roast it, flavour it and blend it.
Coffee reviews rating system
95 to 100: exceptional
90 to 94: outstanding
85 to 89: very good
80 to 84: good
75 to 79: fair
70 to 74: poor
less then 70: not recommended
The US brands of Colombian Coffee
It is said that most Colombian coffee found in large stores are not true Colombian but a mix of Colombian with low qualities beans. Even the best selections, like Colombian Supremo or Excelso, could be corrupted. But if this is true, it is not to be blamed on the farmers in Colombia, but rather on the companies that import and transforms the green beans in coffee for consumers.
The best Colombian coffees, according with latest reviews are:
La Esperanza Colombia Huila rated 95 in April 2010 a medium-light roast sold by Terroir Coffee in Massachusetts
- Diedrich Coffee, rated 87 in September 2010, a dark roasted Colombia sold by a company with the same name in California
- Colombia Monserrate Huila, rated 90 in august 2010, a medium roast from Temple Fine Coffee and Tea in sacramento, California
- Colombia Los Narajos San Augustin, rated 91 in May 2010, a light roast from PT's Coffee Roasting Co., in Kansas
- Newman's Own Organic Colombian Especial, rated 91 in May 2010, a medium roast from Green Mountain Coffee Roaster in Vermont
- Organic Colombia Rainforest Alliance Certified, rated 91 in May 2010, a medium roast sold by Supreme Bean Coffee Roasters in California
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