We love Colombian coffee. The diversity is unique, with so many regions producing so many different flavor characteristics that you could almost see Colombia as 5 separate countries under one roof.
But we have problems with Colombian coffee. Or maybe i should say 'we had'.
First problem is their way of processing. It is a bit vague how this is done. Again because there are hundreds of thousands of farmers and depending on the region, man power, machinery, weather and logistics, they all have their own way to process the beans. This resulted in very quick aging of some lots. Very often we had a 88 (cupping) points coffee from a pre-shipment sample (see it as the first test of a certain lot), that lost one point once the coffee was on spot. And then again one points less the month after, and so on.... So we were always very careful on volumes and made sure the rotation was high and the buying early. So by the beginning of June everything had to be sold.
It was not always very clear how this downfall occurred though. I heard many stories but guess the main reason was the drying process, in combination with the lack of patience - they all need their money fast right?
A bit of info on the drying process in Colombia: it is pretty unique – small-holder farmers spread the parchment across the flat roofs (or ‘elvas’) of their houses to dry in the sun. Polytunnels and parabolic beds are also used in farms with high altitude and cold weather conditions. Parabolic beds – which are constructed a bit like ‘hoop house’ greenhouses, with airflow ensured through openings in both ends – both protect the parchment from rain and mist as it is dried and prevent condensation from dripping back on the drying beans.
Then the second annoyance came; the often disappointing mitaca, or mid crop (or another version of the better known Kenyan fly crop).
Colombia is one of less than a handful of coffee producing countries in the world that has two crops during the year, the main harvest that starts with the international crop cycle on Oct. 1st and for which picking continues until the end of January or early February, and the mitaca, or mid-crop, that is harvest from between the end of March or early April through August. Traditionally the main harvest would account for between 65 and 70 percent of the total annual production.
In the past in was very hard to find mitaca coffee lots that were cupping high enough to our liking. Sometimes they were too small as well and when available most good lots were sold to the more powerful American or Asian buyers.
But this year it looks like we are playing in a different ball game. We had some great first cuppings of mitaca coffees. We even bought one - this spectacular coffee from FINCA LA CONCHITA - and have more stuff at the horizon.
And strangely enough most of this good stuff comes from Antioquia, a coffee region that is not having the best reputation but at once seems to be like the new 'cool'
Antioquia was the ‘wild west’ of the country for many years and was initially settled almost entirely by gold miners. Later on they discover the soil and climate was ideal for coffee and so they started planting a lot of trees. As of the 1980s, coffee was the most important export from the region.
Despite the department’s ideal setting as a producer of speciality coffee, for many years it was overlooked in Colombia’s portfolio of powerhouse coffee producing regions. Thanks to Sergio Fajardo, governor of Antioquia department, who is determined to prove just how remarkable Antioquia is, this image is rapidly changing and from being a region delivering sober, more spicy coffees, it now becomes famous for wilder and sweeter stuff and one good microlot after the other is popping up.
And admit; there are more boring names than 'Anti-o-qui-a' or do you prefer to drink Caldas? :-)