Colombia is a country that, for me, produces some of the world’s best coffee. It grows a wide range of varieties in varying conditions and altitudes, finishing with many different processes, all of which leads to a vast selection of flavour profiles. From floral and fruity to smooth and chocolatey, delicate sweetness and body to syrupy and winey. Colombia has it all. With that said there’s no doubt that I was very excited to journey to Colombia, as my first trip to origin, to visit different farms that work with one of our green importers, Cofinet.
Arriving in Colombia, you’re met with a warm, humid temperature in a landscape that is covered in different shades of green. Driving from the airport to the farmhouse, you can start to get an idea of what the area is like, with small makeshift bars and restaurants dotted on the road side, some fruit stalls selling all local tropical fruit and a mixture of small houses amongst small (non coffee) farms. We stayed at Cofinet’s HQ, which is the farm called La Pradera, slightly South East of Armenia in the Quidío region. This is Cofinet’s main processing centre, where the coffee cherries are sent once harvested, either from farmers who can’t process their coffee or from Cofinet’s own farms.
Let's start with the coffee tastings. At the start of each day, Monday - Thursday, we dove straight into tastings, via the usual format of cupping. On Monday and Tuesday we had 3 tables of 12-15 coffees, while on Wednesday we had 2 tables of 12-15. Overall it totaled 123 different coffees! Colombian coffees being Colombian coffees, the flavour profile of each cup varied drastically. We had some tables made up of washed processes, which included Tabi, Castillo, Caturra, Gesha and Pink Bourbon. While some of these were very easy going, soft berry notes rounded out with toffee/chocolate sweetness, there were also many showcasing much wilder notes. Floral and citrus-like Gesha’s and tropical sweet Pink Bourbon’s were some of my favourites.
Natural processed coffees also featured heavily on some of the other tables. This included some extra fermentation, be it anaerobic, carbonic maceration or, a new one to me, ice fermentation. In ice fermentation, the coffee cherries are frozen for 24 hours part of the way through the regular fermentation. This has given the overall all cupgreater complexity and body. Among the natural processed coffees, we tasted varieties such as Gesha, Caturra, Sidra, Tabi, Yellow Bourbon and Orange Bourbon. The flavour profiles of these coffees varied more, from juicy, floral and tropical to boozy rich fruit notes. As a variety, Sidra was really standing out to me, often showcasing a sweet winey note with purple fruits and floral on the nose.
To throw in even more unusual coffees, we also got to taste some of Cofinet’s latest experiments with fermentation. They have started fermenting coffee with fruit pulp, calling it an infusion. It’s amazing to taste just how much of the fruit’s flavour the green bean soaks up. The different fruit infusions they have done are peach, strawberry, passionfruit, orange, mandarin and grape. Mostly using the Pink Bourbon variety, known for it’s natural sweetness, it allowed the brewed coffee to taste closer to fruit juice than your traditional morning brew. My favourite of the infusions was peach, as it was incredibly floral alongside being sweet and juicy.
The times that we weren’t tasting coffee at La Pradera, we were out visiting coffee farms in the local area. On the Monday we visited a few of the farms that grow some of Cofinet’s regional coffees; Santa Monica, Casa Negra and Villaroza. These are well balanced, rounded coffees that don’t undergo any special fermentation, which leaves them clean and sweet, but less fruit driven in the flavour profile. The varieties grown here are Castillo, Caturra and Pink Bourbon, all grown at around 1500m.
Tuesday’s farm visit was to Filipe and Carlos Arcila’s Jardines Del Eden, who Cofinet work closely with, due to them growing some of the rarest varieties of coffee. Here they grow Yellow Gesha, Red Gesha, Sudan Rume, Sidra and SL28. The farm sits between 1800m and 2000m, enabling the coffee to ripen slowly and produce as much complexity in the cup as possible. I hadn’t tasted a coffee cherry before, so it was really interesting to taste the different varieties to see how the flavour changed. For me, Yellow Gesha was probably my favourite, because the flesh of the cherry was super sweet.
Wednesday’s farm visit was to the highest altitude that we’d go to, 2100m. Owned by Cesar Buesaquillo, Finca Esmeralda is a slightly smaller, more traditional farm, in the sense that they process their coffee on site. While Cesar used to just grow Castillo, over the past few years he has invested in 1000 Gesha trees, which are producing a very high quality cup. Selling the green beans onto Cofinet allows Cesar to reach a wider audience and get a better price for his coffee.
On Thursday, we visited the final 2 farms of the trip. The first was Puerto Alegre owned by Jairo Ivan Lopez, which was set in a valley at around 1500m. Here they are growing Gesha, Java and Castillo and processing everything on the farm. Puerto Alegre had a large processing operation, experimenting with different fermentations, such as carbonic maceration and anaerobic, all for different lengths of time depending on the flavour profile trying to be achieved.
We then headed into the mountains, around 1800m to El Divisa owned by Jairo Arcila, Filipe and Carlos’ Father. Jairo has paid a lot of attention to his farm, neatly growing other trees and plants (predominantly plantain) in and around where the coffee grows, leading to a very tropical, healthy and green feel to the farm. The varieties grown here are Castillo, Java, Pink Bourbon and Gesha.
Our last day involved a trip to a local coffee mill, who hull the green coffee seed from the parchment and sort the coffee, pulling out any visual defects. It is a large operation they have running here, milling many different farmer’s coffee, so they have invested in large industrial machines to hull, sort by size, sort by colour and then checked for defects. However, this last process has to be done by hand.
Overall it was a busy week cramming everything in, trying to take in as much information as possible. Seeing everything at farm level, what goes into growing and processing the coffee, I’ve found fascinating. After so many years of seeing photos and reading about coffee farming, nothing has come close to experiencing it in person. Colombia is a beautiful country and I hope to make a return trip at some point in the future. Keep an eye out on our socials and web store since a few of the coffees I tasted on the trip will definitely heading this way.