Friday, March 21, 2014

Colombia on the Rise

Back in 2011, Colombia was my 3rd trip to origin.
Together with my main man Bert I visited the El Roble Farm in Santander. We participated at an extensive cupping organized by Virmax. Click this link.

During the same trip we visited the WBC in Bogota and cupped a lot of damn good coffees. It must have been since those days that Colombia became one of my favorite coffee regions.

Before this trip I wasn't used to drink top quality Colombian coffees. Although Colombia is one of the largest coffee producing country's (12% of the total market comes from Colombia) in the world and Antwerp the biggest coffee harbor, I never cupped something better than average. In Belgium they talk a lot about Supremo, Excelso and Popoyan. This is a fantasy name given to a certain kind of Colombian commercial graded coffees. Origin is not specified, although most the Popoyan seems to come from the Cauca area.
Supremo is the highest grade, extra second. The two are often combined into a more comprehensive grade called Excelso. With these you are almost certainly contemplating a standard Colombia from the Colombia Federation of Coffee Growers. Nevertheless, these standard Colombians will not all taste the same. Some  lots will display much more quality and character than others, and skillful coffee buyers will find them for their customers.
However, if a Colombia coffee is identified by a regional or estate name, rather than grade name, it may be either a private mill coffee or one of a group of specialty coffees developed by the Colombia Federation of Coffee Growers. It mostly displays more character and a cleaner cup than standard lots of Colombia, although there is a lot of difference between all the different regions.

Most of the cup character is medium bodied, vibrant acidity but not overbearing, and the cup lively and nuanced by understated fruit tones. Certainly the Huila and Southern picked beans are sweeter, the more Northern ones more spicy and lower in acidity.

Two years ago we bought a lot from Virmax called El Meridiano.
Last year Villa Esperanza. Dutch link.

In between we bought a lot of Colombians, but not always to our liking. The most problems we discovered, had to do with freshness.
Freshly picked, processed and shipped Colombian coffees do taste very good. Unfortunately we mostly saw a big decline over time. Where Ethiopian coffee stays fresh over a very long period (up to 2 years sometimes) and most Central Americans can be very tasty upto six months after arrival, we notice most Colombians fade seriously after the first 3-4 months.
So our politics are relatively easy ; we buy often, but lower quantity's.
Not so difficult cause one of the biggest advantages of Colombian coffees is the fact the shipments keeps on coming. There's almost no other origin that has such an ongoing stream of freshly picked beans.

With over half a million farms it is relatively rare to buy single estate coffees in Colombia, although we managed to do so from the Las Mercedes farm. 3 different lots already this year. And very happy with the cup result, but the best ones are just landed at our Roastery.
El Tesoro (San Agustin) : a honey with a lot of depth and clarity.
Los Idolos (Huila) : a super balanced and clean cup
El Serriano (Huila) : best decaf ever

So, together with a conventional Huila, we blended in the Roast ED during this winter, we talk about 7 different Colombians since December.
Yes, that's why we call it 'on the rise'.

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