Colombia ‘Popayan’ Supremo
About Colombia and its Coffee Production
Coffee production in Colombia has a reputation for producing mild, well-balanced coffee beans. Colombia’s average annual coffee production of 11.5 million bags is the third total highest in the world, after Brazil and Vietnam, though highest in terms of the arabica bean. The beans are exported to the United States, Germany, France, Japan, Australia and Italy.
Most coffee is grown in the Colombian coffee growing axis region, while other regions focus on quality instead of volumes, such as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. In 2007, the European Union granted Colombian coffee a protected designation of origin status. In 2011, UNESCO declared the “Coffee Cultural Landscape” of Colombia, a World Heritage site.
Colombian coffee is often regarded as some of the highest quality coffee in the world. Colombia has traditionally grown arabica beans and its unique geography makes it perfectly suited for producing a delicious, high-quality brew. Colombia’s excellent growing conditions have paired with an aggressive marketing campaign by the National Federation of Coffee Growers (FNC), which has worked since the late 1950s to bring Colombia’s coffee sector to the forefront of international attention.
Colombia has traditionally been second in global coffee production only to Brazil, but has been set back to third by Vietnam’s recent market entry and rapidly expanding production of robusta coffees. Over 500,000 farms, most of them small landholdings of 5 hectares or less are scattered across the zonas cafeterias, some of the most biologically diverse landscapes in the world.
Colombia is bisected by the Andes Mountains which splits into three parallel cordilleras (mountain ranges) as they run south to north. Much of the nation’s coffee is grown in this area. The small nation contains two of South America’s five “biodiversity hotspots”. The Tumbes-Choco hotspot occupies all of Colombia’s coast, while the Tropical Andes hotspot covers nearly all its mountain ranges. In fact, Conservation International calls the Colombian Andes the “richest and most diverse region on earth,” noting that the whole of the tropical Andes chain contains one-sixth of the world’s plant species in only one per cent of its land area.
Where does Colombia ‘Popayan’ Supremo come from?
Colombian Supremo ‘Popayan’ grows in the acclaimed Cauca (market name Popayan) region. The coffee-producing areas of the Cauca are lush with rainfall, cloud cover and soil conditions, ideal for coffee cultivation. Dense clouds form from the Pacific and release heavy rainfall over the Cauca valley that averages 80 inches yearly. A cool mountainous climate prolongs the development of the Popayan’s coffee cherry which deepens the berry flavour absorbed by its seed, or coffee bean. This flavour is accentuated during the fermentation stage when the defruited bean is processed.
What does Supremo Mean?
Colombia Supremo refers to the largest size of beans from Colombia. Supremo is a screen size of 17 or 18 and is slightly larger than the Excelso distinction.
Supremo and Excelso beans may be harvested from the same tree at the same time and later sorted by size, though that’s not the only difference between them. Excelso beans are also processed in the European Preparation (EP) style, a quality signifier that allows for a very low number of permissible defects.
Tasting Notes for Colombia ‘Popayan’ Supremo
|Screen Size / Grade||Screen 17/18, Supremo|
|Bean Appearance (green)||Very clean, even, greenish|
|Acidity||Lively with a balanced acidity|
|Body||Very rich and full|
|Harvest Period||October – March|
|Description||The coffee-producing areas of this region of Colombia are lush with ideal rainfall, cloud cover and soil conditions that are perfect for coffee cultivation. The cool mountainous climate prolongs the development of the Popayan’s coffee cherry, deepening the berry flavour absorbed by its seed or coffee bean.|
|Tasting Notes||Slow to mature, the bean is smooth and full-bodied, displaying deep berry flavours with hints of cocoa.|
|Processing Method||Fully Washed, Sun-dried|
|Altitude||1350 – 1759 MASL|
History of Coffee in Colombia
Coffee in Colombia has about 300 years of history since the Jesuits brought it to the country in the 18th century who arrived with Spanish settlers. The first crops were harvested in the Northeast part of the country, but coffee was quickly adopted across the nation by small, family farms as a local cash crop.
In 1835, the first bags produced in the eastern zone were exported from Cucuta’s customs office. That first shipment of a humble 100 bags of green coffee (around 60kg each) was the first of what would become a major industry. As coffee consumption grew rapidly in The United States, Germany, and France in the mid-1800s, so did Colombia’s coffee production.
Legend has it that the increase of coffee production in Colombia happened thanks to the Jesuit Priest Francisco Romero in a small town in the Department of Santander named Salazar de Las Palmas. When his parishioners confessed, the priest imposed on them sowing coffee as a penance to redeem their sins. Thanks to this, it is said that the coffee production began to expand to other Departments (Provinces), and by 1850, coffee had reached Cundinamarca, Antioquia and Caldas.
By the end of the 19th century, production had increased from 60,000 bags to more than 600,000 bags – it is worth noting that most of this production came from the farms of the largest landowners – and by the end of the 19th century, coffee was already the main foreign exchange export product in Colombia.
The growing industry hit a brief decline in the late 1800s as civil war broke out in the country, called The Thousand Days War. The fighting, along with a lull in international coffee prices, forced many plantation owners to split up farmland among workers, giving locals ownership and autonomy over their own farms.
The transition from the 19th to the 20th century brought a great fall in the international market prices and therefore a crisis for the landowners, changing the whole picture. This crisis favoured the small producers that were growing, and the west zone became the leader in coffee development.
In the early 1900s, the now peaceful Colombia created a logistics system that enabled rural, small-estate farmers to export their coffee more efficiently. This spurred a new age of growth and gave those newer farmers a way to keep producing.
In 1927 the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros was created, which was responsible for aiding and representing the coffee growers to ensure their rights.
In 1938 the Research Centre, CENICAFE was born, it was responsible for achievements like the “Castillo” variety, resistance to diseases such as rust.
In 1959 two important events occurred: The Character of Juan Valdez was born and the office of Café de Colombia was opened in Tokyo, making Japan today the second consumer of Colombian coffee in the world.
In 1984 the Café de Colombia distinctive hallmark was created, which identifies it in every corner of the world.