The fertile soils of Colombia’s “coffee triangle” produce some of the most prized varieties of coffee on earth today. But what are the best brands on the market for the average drinker? Is it worth buying coffee from Colombia? And what does coffee from Colombia taste like? We’ve put together a bit of a bluffers guide to Colombian coffee at the bottom of this article – click here if you want to jump down to read that – otherwise, let’s get straight into the coffees…
These beans come from the Huila region of south-east Colombia, where especially volcanic soils make for coffee with lower acidity than in other regions of the country. The result is a balanced coffee that contains some enjoyable chocolate and berry notes.
It fares well brewed in all ways thanks to its low bitterness and medium roast. Some drinkers looking for a more typical Colombian coffee might find it a bit too ‘berried’, but we were impressed with its flavour and freshness.
This medium roast effort from Brown Bear is billed as having notes of toffee apple and marzipan. We thought that sounded interesting – but such things were beyond our palate. That’s not a problem however – and on second thoughts is probably a massive relief.
This coffee is nicely mellow and aromatic with some gentle fruity notes and a long caramel finish. It’s proper tasty and also produces a good crema when used to make espresso.
Coffee Master’s Colombian is certified organic and fair-trade and bills itself as being a single origin – which in this case means that the Arabica beans in the bag were all grown in the Antioca/Medellin region of Colombia.
A mix of varietals from the region including excelsior are included, giving a nutty and sweet flavour profile with notes of dark chocolate and orange. The beans are evenly medium roasted and yield a medium bodied coffee. Delicious, drinkable and ethical stuff.
Redber’s effort features beans produced in the Huila region of Colombia. All the coffee is ‘excelso’ grade stuff – which means medium and large sized beans that have been sorted by hand as quality control. It’s a mix of Caturra, Typica and Bourbon varieties grown between 1,200 and 2,000 metres above sea level.
The coffee has a rounded body and bright acidity with sweet citrus and rich chocolate flavours. It had a nice smooth finish and worked well in milky coffees and also gave a nice crema when used in the espresso machine.
Screen 18 takes its name from the sorting screen producers use to sift out the largest and densest coffee beans which are highly prized by Colombian traders. These beans are labelled them ‘Supremo’ and flogged to discerning coffee quaffers the world over.
This blend of Supremo-graded beans are roasted medium/dark and have a nutty undertone, smooth body and mild acidity. It has a sweetness too it which makes it very drinkable. Screen 18 is produced by Colonial Coffee Roasters who prepare there coffee in small batches to guarantee freshness.
Here’s another interesting single origin coffee which is sourced from 660 hectares of land represented by 300 families in the Pitalito region of Colombia. The coffee is the fruit of a sustainability project working to give local farmers a better price for their beans and a more stable local supply chain – so it ticks a lot of ethical boxes.
But what about flavour? The coffee is a mix of Caturra, Typica, Colombia, Castillo grown at an altitude of 1,450-2,150 metres. It’s a medium/dark roast with caramel, chocolate and toffee notes. The caramel notes are really at the fore of this one when drinking it in milky flat whites and lattes.
These beans are a blend of prime arabica crops grown in Antioquia, Tolima, and Huila regions of the Colombian Andes. Hampshire roasts its beans in small batches to guarantee freshness and the medium roast really brings out the the sweet flavour profile of this coffee.
The beans themselves are grown between 1,200 and 2,000 metres in conditions which give them moderate acidity and a slightly nutty aftertaste. It’s a good all-rounder and works well when brewed all ways, but we preferred it done in the Aeropress or with the drip filter.
A bluffer’s guide to Columbian coffee
Colombia is the fourth largest coffee growing nation in the world with exports totalling some $2.6bn of beans each year.
Obviously. in growing so much coffee the type, quality and flavour profile of the nation’s output varies wildly. However, it is still possible to peg down a broad set of characteristics that are likely to be found in Colombian coffee. This is largely because much of the coffee grows in very similar conditions in volcanic soils located between 800 and 1900 metres above sea level in the country’s coffee belt.
The main botanical varieties favoured by local growers are Typica, Bourbon, Caturra and Maragogype. Fortunately, there are fairly high standards set by the Colombian federation of coffee growers which means beans grown are generally high quality varieties.
Colombian beans are typically wet processed before exporting. This means the flesh of each beans cherry-like fruit is removed from the coffee bean early in the process before the beans are dried. Washed coffee’s tend to be less fruity and are clear and vibrant in their flavour profiles.
Generally, you can expect a cup of Colombian Joe (or José) to be sweet, bright and rich. It will have a fairly high acidity and be medium to full bodied. It will have notes of citrus, tropical fruits and spices. Coffee drinkers generally regard Colombian coffees as well balanced and clean tasting. They are good all-rounders – likely to please everybody’s palate.