There are three principal factors which determine the quality of coffee (and we are talking about the raw product here, not the cup you drink in your home or local café: that can be elevated or ruined by bad roasting, poor brewing technique or inappropriate storage). Below are the three factors, and some explanation as to why each one makes such a key difference when it comes to making Colombia’s coffee taste so good.
Geography and climate
Colombia has just about the perfect geography for growing coffee, a sensitive crop which needs exactly the right conditions to thrive. The richness of flavour for which Colombian coffee is celebrated is mainly down to an excellent climate, perfect soil and the exact right amount of rainfall. Coffee thrives in places with at least 200 centimetres (80 inches) of rainfall per year, as well as in locations where the temperature never falls below freezing.
Colombia’s mountainous terrain, tropical location, high rainfall – but with just the right amount of sunlight, too – and relatively mild climate make for an unbelievably perfect coffee-growing country. People often say that Colombia was blessed with its amazing biodiversity and friendly locals, but if anything, its greatest blessing has been an ideal climate and geography for growing some of the world’s best coffee.
The growing and harvesting process
This factor cannot be underestimated when it comes to producing top-notch coffee. It’s not enough to have the perfect climate and terrain if your methods of growing and collecting coffee beans are sloppy or poorly executed. The best coffee is grown on steep slopes, surrounded ideally by trees and banana plants – which provide much-needed shade and prevent the beans being scorched in the hot sun – and every bean is picked by hand. Yes, you read that right: each one of the nearly 600,000 coffee producers in Colombia picks every bit of their harvest by hand.
This hand-picking process is not to be underestimated. A machine cannot tell the difference between green beans, unripe beans, overripe beans and the ideal coffee cherry. But a human being can, and the hard work and blistered fingers of tens of thousands of coffee pickers is testament to the hard nature of their work; however, it pays off for the coffee-lover, with the selection process meaning that only the very best coffee beans make it to your cup (although the bad beans still get processed and, sadly, end up in the cups of most Colombians, with the top-quality stuff destined for foreign mugs).
The type of coffee
Coffee isn’t just coffee. There are two different types of coffee bean: arabica and robusta (as well as new varieties produced within those two species). Colombia, with its perfect terrain and climate, is one of the only countries that produce 100% arabica beans. But what does this have to do with the quality of Colombian coffee?
It’s simple, really. Arabica is widely considered to be the superior bean, and it is blessed with a sweeter and lighter taste, as well as less caffeine – about half the amount – and stronger acidic notes. In short, arabica produces a tastier, richer cup of coffee than robusta, and Colombia’s 100% arabica status is bound to add up to some pretty amazing coffee.
As we mentioned, there’s nothing that can be done to rescue even the finest coffee on earth if the roast is dreadful, it’s been stored poorly or you simply dump boiling water over the grounds and expect world-class coffee. However, if you are looking to enjoy a cup of the finest coffee in the world, look no further than Colombia for your beans. And now you know exactly why Colombian coffee is so good!