With numerous microclimates, climbing altitudes, and biodiverse ecosystems - Colombia produces high quantities of excellent coffee.
Colombia is the third largest coffee-producing country in the world, and thanks to its vast array of unique microclimate, are able to have harvests throughout the year.
Commercial coffee cultivation began in the mid-1830s and spread so rapidly that throughout the twentieth century coffee already became the country’s leading export. A mountainous topography and many tropical micro-climates contribute greatly to Colombia’s reputation for ideal growing conditions, which – in turn – have helped Colombia establish itself as a recognisable origin around the world.View Coffees
Place In World For Coffee Exporter3rd
Sacks (60kg) exported annuallyApprox. 13,672,000
Percentage of world coffee market10%
Other major agricultural exportsBananas, Sugar
Estimated number of families relying on coffee for livelihood?More than 2 million
Typical varieties producedTypica, Bourbon, Tabi, Caturra, Colombia, Maragogype, Castillo (among others)
Key coffee regionsNariño, Cauca, Meta, Huila, Tolima, Quindio, Caldas, Risaralda, Antioquia, Valle, Cundinamarca, Boyacá, Santander & Norte de Santander
Typical harvest timesMarch-June; September-December
Typically availableFrom July/August & January/February
The Importance of Coffee
Coffee truly has a significant place in the country’s economy. Colombia has roughly 875,000 hectares planted with coffee across 590 municipalities and 14 coffee-growing regions. On average, 75 percent of the country’s production is exported worldwide, with the crop representing 7.9 per cent of the country’s overall exports in 2020. The majority of this production surprisingly comes from smallholder producers: 60 percent of Colombian coffee producers cultivate less than one hectare of coffee while only .5 percent have more than 20 hectares.
Traditionally, the majority of coffees from Colombia have been processed using the fully washed method. However, Centre for Coffee Investigation (Cenicafé) have developed an ecological system that uses little water, reduces contamination of local water sources by 90 percent and reduces water consumption by 95 percent. This dry pulping method has proven reliable not just in preserving surrounding ecosystems but also in guaranteeing a consistent cup quality and is increasingly used across the country.
The drying process in much of Colombia is unique – smallholder producers 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 altitudes 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.
The diversity of coffee and profiles found across Colombia is enormous and coffee is harvested practically year-round depending on the region. The main harvest takes place from October to February with November and December being the peak months. There is also a second fly (or ‘mitaca’) crop several months later, again varying by region and microclimate.