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Everything you always wanted to know about Colombian coffee!

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Coffee giant Starbucks plans to open its first outlet in Colombia in 2014. The news has caused a stir in the country, especially among devotees and employees of Juan Valdez and other coffee lovers! Upon hearing this news at Viventura, we decided to take a closer look at Colombian coffee beans. Why are they so popular? What influence does coffee have on the economic development of a country like Colombia?

Salento

Why is Colombian coffee so popular? Are there more varieties of coffee flavors than wine? Experts don’t seem to think so, but it could be possible. Flavor varies dependent on species and variety (much like grapes for wine), how the coffee beans are prepared, and how the blends are put together. Colombia specializes in washed Arabica since it was introduced by the Jesuits in 1723. Unlike Robusta, Arabica has a strong aroma, more acidity and a more rounded flavor. Some Colombia coffee varieties include: Vintage Colombia, Bucaramanga, Miraflores, Neiva, Popayan and Excelso Suprimo.

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The coffee region “Eje Cafetero” is a must on a trip to Colombia . Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011, it extends west of Bogota around the cities of Manizales, Pereira and Armenia. Its coffee plantations reach all the way to the horizon, covering the mountainsides and offering travelers already intoxicated by the sweet smell of coffee a lush green landscape to go with it. The Andes in the background and colorful colonial architecture only add to the charm of what is known as the “coffee triangle” region!

Coffee beans

The subtle flavor of Colombian coffee is due to the rich fertility of this region, which allows coffee production throughout the year. At an altitude of around 1200 and 1800 meters, a temperature of around 20 degrees, humidity and between 1,600 and 2,000 hours of sunshine per year, the climate is perfect for coffee growing.

Getting to know local people isn’t hard, and those who are curious can easily learn about the process of coffee production: growing, roasting and harvest. What could be better than enjoying a cup of freshly harvested and roasted coffee? Just be prepared – real, fresh Colombian coffee will probably be unlike any coffee you have tasted before!

Juan Valdez

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Coffee – the black gold of the Colombian economy ?

Colombian coffee production has had a significant impact on the economy of the region since the 19th century. In 1870, coffee plantations began to grow in Colombia. The government soon decided to support production in the regions growing the best coffee beans, and the country quickly emerged as the second largest coffee producer in the world after Brazil. Coffee bean production has been closely protected since 1927 by the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, famously represented by the image of the fictional Juan Valdez and his mule. The Federation currently represents 500,000 families and farms. Juan Valdez protects Colombian coffee producers, but is also the brand of one of the most popular coffee shop chains in Colombia.

The 1990s were a turning point in the world coffee economy. It took Vietnam less than 10 years to grow coffee production to twice Colombia’s output. At the same time Brazil expanded production, causing global prices to fall. The situation stabilized in 2004, but many small farmers went bankrupt and the number of unemployed grew to 1.6 million as a direct result of the crisis.

transporting coffee

The coffee industry has significant economic and social importance, as shown by the strike of coffee producers in February 2013.

Starbucks’ decision to open 50 cafes over 5 years in Colombia and compete in this well-established market has caused surprise and excitement. “We’ve had great success in Latin America and it’s well overdue for us to open up in Colombia,” said Howard Schultz CEO of Starbucks. Colombia has become more attractive to Western investors following the softening of the conflict between the Marxist FARC and the government. Starbucks’ strategy also comprises a social project donating $3 million to reduce extreme poverty and to develop production in areas still affected by the conflict.

The decision should bode well for the world coffee economy, north-south relations, and fair trade. The success of brands and labels such as Max Haavelar is closely related to the environmental, social and economic commitment they guarantee towards producers and consumers.

Dried coffee beans

As a result of poverty, many Colombian farmers resorted to coca cultivation, with negative consequences. The political balance and economic development of the region was destabilised by increased drug trafficking. In order to combat this, in 1993 the UN established COSURCA, a cooperative of families, farmers and local associations, which aimed to regulate the production and marketing of coffee.

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What does the future hold?

Named the 4th biggest Latin American economy in 2011, Colombia is attracting more and more foreign investors. Although the country has lost its historical status as the second biggest coffee producer, coffee remains the main crop. Coffee may be part of Colombia’s cultural heritage, but it is also a source of economic, political and social  fragility. With production down and prices fluctuating wildly, the longer-term effect of Starbucks’ entry into this well-established but volatile market remains to be seen. Will it be good or bad for Colombia? We’ll let you ponder the issue while drinking a cup of Colombian coffee!

Fresh Colombian coffee!

Coming soon: the best Colombian coffee recipes!

Written by Clara Beniac. Translated by Alistair Moore

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Viventura specializes in individual and group tours to Colombia. To find out more, contact us now by email or telephone:

Toll Free US & Canada  1-888-238-1602
UK  (020) 3514 3192
Worldwide  1-813-579-3389

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Born and bred in London, UK but is now based in Berlin, Alistair is Viventura's resident Englishman with responsibility for marketing to Viventura's English speaking customers. His professional ... Read Full

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