Since I moved to Colombia I’ve heard over and over again that Colombian coffee is the best. My reaction is: “Of course Colombians would say that!” But when doing research into what makes a good cup of coffee, I found some interesting facts about Colombia.
Altitude and weather
One thing that influences coffee quality in Colombia has nothing to do with anything Colombians could change or manipulate. It has to do with altitude.
Arabica is the best quality coffee, and the ideal altitude to grow it ranges from 4,000 feet to 6,400 feet above sea level. Of course, the weather has to be pleasant, with enough rain and temperatures in the 60s or low 70s F, since it’s obvious that coffee plants tend not to do well in the snow.
It just so happens that much of Colombia meets those requirements. Coffee in Colombia is grown in some of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. The Andes Mountains dissect the country from north to south, and branch out in three parallel mountain ranges. In this area, it is estimated that one-sixth of the world’s plant species exists. This a relatively small area is packed with diversity.
And all these coffee plants in the mountains means it’s nearly impossible to get machines onto those farms to harvest the coffee, so it is picked manually. Obviously, that’s better – a machine doesn’t distinguish between an almost ripe or overripe cherry, but a human being does.
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Soil and shade
Much of the soil in those coffee growing regions is well-drained rich volcanic soil, and its high organic content produces an excellent coffee. Rain patterns – how much rain falls, and when – also affects coffee growth. The amount of shade also influences the quality of coffee, and in Colombia 1.4 million hectares of coffee farms are shaded (often by banana trees), with only about half that in full sun, which is positive for the end result in your cup.
So all of this means that Colombia coffee has a richer flavor, fuller body, and balanced acidity. It also has less caffeine, so drink up!
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