Colombia Coffee 2021: Best of Both Worlds or Identity Crisis?

Colombia Coffee 2021: Best of Both Worlds or Identity Crisis?

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Photo of Red Rooster Colombia coffee

Red Rooster’s “Trust The Process” Colombia coffee was the top-rated coffee on this month’s report. Photo courtesy of Red Rooster Coffee Roaster.


Colombia may very well be approaching best-of-both-worlds standing as coffee producer. On one hand, commonplace commodity Colombias proceed rolling all the way down to the ports and onward into “100% Colombian” grocery store cans and jars, whose fairly first rate contents put to disgrace the tasteless, woody, Robusta-laden contents of competing grocery store cans and jars.

At the identical time, small plenty of specialty Colombia coffees, stunning and distinctive, have surfaced over the past decade or so. Until lately, these specialty Colombias aimed for a superior model of the basic energy and completeness related to the very best conventional Colombia coffees. In different phrases, they aspired to transcend the standard-issue Colombia cup by doing the identical factor, solely higher.

But lately, growing numbers of Colombias have appeared on specialty lists that signify the alternative of basic. These are sometimes anything-goes, push-it-to-the-limit experiments with processing technique of the sort which have erupted on the stylish excessive finish of the coffee market over the previous couple of years. In explicit, they embrace sweetly fruit-toned coffees dried in the entire fruit (naturals), in addition to coffees processed by a spread of hybrid strategies, together with variations on the newest processing fad, anaerobic fermentation.

From a shopper perspective, the very best of each worlds may very well be beginning to appear to be a cut up coffee persona.

63 Single-Farm Colombias

We examined 63 single-farm Colombias for this month’s report. Close to half (45%) have been conventionally washed or wet-processed within the Colombia custom. About 30% have been dried-in-the-fruit or natural-processed (in different phrases, not within the Colombia custom). And nearly 25% have been topic to ingenious hybrid variations on anaerobic processing or carbonic maceration, positively not within the Colombia custom. Anaerobic, by the way in which, implies that in some unspecified time in the future in the course of the means of fruit removing and drying the coffees are topic to fermentation in restricted oxygen circumstances (sealed tanks, sealed baggage, tanks stuffed with CO2). When the oxygen restriction is carried out by sealing the coffee fruit in tanks stuffed with CO2 the method could also be termed carbonic maceration, with maceration on this case used as a tough synonym for fermentation and carbonic referring to the CO2. All such deprivation of oxygen throughout fermentation goals to cut back the motion of oxygen-loving yeasts that produce candy alcohol fermentation whereas selling the motion of lactic-acid-producing micro organism that don’t want oxygen. These final are the kinds of micro organism that affect the style of yogurt, kefir, bitter beers and kimchee, amongst different meals and drinks.

Based by myself expertise tasting these experiments, the very best of them appear to mix cup traits I affiliate with the plush impression of yeast/alcohol fermentation in addition to the tangy tart-sweetness of lactic fermentation. But both method, these hybrid anaerobic-ferment coffees provide the just about actual reverse of what we anticipate from commonplace washed-process coffees within the Colombia custom: They suggest the surprising quite than the anticipated, the stunning quite than the predictably suave and balanced.

No Matter What the Process, Considerable Success

Regardless of processing variation, the 63 Colombia single-farm samples we examined for this month’s report have been general spectacular. More than half scored 90 or greater, and a notable 17 scored 93 or higher. Of these seventeen 93+ samples, we selected 12 to evaluate this month.

Surprisingly, maybe, these 12 report-topping coffees have been cut up amongst processing strategies nearly exactly in the identical percentages because the samples have been for the cupping as a complete. Almost half (42%) have been washed course of, 25% have been natural-processed, and 25% have been variations on anaerobic strategies. There was one honey-processed coffee, accounting for the 8% wanted to achieve 100%.

So, if there’s any lesson to be discovered right here regarding processing technique and excessive rankings at Coffee Review, it might appear to be that it’s not the processing technique that pulls excessive rankings, however quite the care and information the producer brings to executing these processing strategies. Supported, in fact, by importers, roasters and shoppers prepared to pay sufficient to justify that care and information.

Scan the Ratings, however Read the Reviews

Another lesson is that customers utilizing Coffee Review to assist with their shopping for choices would possibly wish to buy coffees primarily based on studying the evaluations in addition to wanting on the rankings.

Take the highest three coffees within the report, all rated 95 or 96. One was a natural-processed coffee, the Red Rooster “Trust the Process” (96), one a traditional totally washed coffee, the Paradise Finca El Caucho (95), and one a hybrid anaerobic, the Kakalove Cafe Colombia 95). Not solely the processing strategies, however the explicit coffee pleasures supplied by these three distinctive coffees, are fairly totally different. Of course, one might additionally argue that by shopping for any of them, the coffee lover wins, simply in several methods.

Kakalove Cafe’s Natural Carbonic Maceration coffee, which earned 95 factors, was grown at Finca La Colombia in Antioquia. Photo Courtesy of Kakalove Cafe.

Juan Valdez Contemplates Carbonic Maceration

With nearly some other origin besides Colombia, such a schitzy cut up in processing technique and coffee persona would possibly go unnoticed. But for the final 60 years, Colombia has been efficiently promoting the world on a uniform, comparatively constant coffee expertise branded “100% Colombian.” The National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia (FNC)’s decades-long, revolutionary advertising and marketing program constructed round that title and that includes the photogenic farmer Juan Valdez (performed by a succession of precise coffee farmers over time) stays a exceptional, award-winning success story in establishing model recognition with North American shoppers. At one level within the early 2000s, round 12.5% of all coffee offered within the U.S. was Colombian.

Meanwhile, on the producing finish, the FNC relentlessly pursued its purpose of turning all of its grower members into one unified coffee expression, as close to as doable providing the identical “100% Colombian” cup regardless of the place in Colombia the inexperienced coffee got here from or which of its 513,000 farmer-members grew it.

Keep It Washed

So dedicated was Colombia to reaching a constant nationwide coffee profile that, for many years, Colombian authorities solely allowed coffees to be exported that just about match the “100% Colombian” mannequin: commonplace clean-profiled, wet-processed coffees that fulfilled sure grading expectations. The purpose was to forestall lower-quality or off-tasting coffees from reaching the market and sullying the 100% Colombia model. But these guidelines additionally discouraged export of high quality coffees processed utilizing various processing strategies.

In 2015, Colombia authorities lastly relaxed these rules. The essential driver apparently was a must export considerably lower-quality coffees to fulfill demand throughout a time when the rust epidemic and different components severely diminished general Colombia coffee manufacturing. But certainly, an extra motivation should have been the will of some producers and their importer and roaster allies to see Colombia be part of the rising motion to create new and thrilling cup profiles by means of experimentation with processing.

At any fee, the change in Colombian export rules 5 years in the past opened the door to the quite hanging distinction amongst this month’s 12 reviewed coffees, a distinction between what we’d name the Similar-But-Better strategy and the Different-But-Exciting strategy to specialty differentiation.

The Similar-But-Better Successes

The top-rated amongst this month’s Similar-But-Better assortment is the 95-point Paradise Colombia Finca El Caucho Pink Bourbon, with its pure sweetness, high-toned brightness, and complex floral, honey and citrus notes. True, though its pretty honey-sweet but citrusy construction could have been inspired by a basic washed course of, its juicy complexity in all probability might be attributed to a tree selection that native Colombian growers within the Huila area name Pink Bourbon.


Roberto Achicue of Finca El Caucho grew the Paradise Roasters Pink Bourbon we rated at 95 factors. Photo courtesy of Paradise Roasters.

In phrases of reality and science, there seem like extra questions than solutions about Pink Bourbon and its origins and genetics. Both red-fruited and yellow-fruited Bourbons are extensively grown within the coffee world, and native Colombian producers have made the logical assumption that their Pink Bourbon is a spontaneous cross between Red and Yellow. However, genetic fingerprinting means that the Huila model is extra seemingly a range in a roundabout way associated to Bourbon. Nevertheless, one factor appears clear: Pink Bourbon as grown within the Huila area of Colombia can produce a formidable cup.

Regrettably, the 95-point Paradise Finca El Caucho Pink Bourbon is already offered out on the roaster’s web site, however I feel readers won’t be stepping very far again with both the 93-rated Badbeard’s Special Project Colombia Pink Bourbon or the 93-rated JBC Aces La Juntas, additionally from bushes of the Pink Bourbon. Both are washed course of, and each are sweetly and gently tart and juicy in construction with a citrusy edge. The Badbeard model is extra floral and the JBC extra chocolaty and nut-toned. I confess that I introduced the leftover Badbeard’s residence and drank it with the best pleasure over two days operating.

Two extra 93-rated washed-process Colombias fill out this month’s Similar-But-Better contingent: the Greater Goods Bright Minds and the modcup Colombia Finca Potosi. Both are produced from a choice of commonplace Colombia varieties: Caturra, Colombia, Castillo. But each show appreciable distinction, presumably owing to meticulous work on the farm and mill: spice and flower notes with a advantageous dry chocolate within the case of the Bright Minds; candy lilac-like flowers and orangy citrus and caramel with the modcup Finca Potosi.


Finca Potosi, in Colombia’s Valle de Cauca, grew a particular lot for modcup coffee, which earned 93 factors. Photo courtesy of modcup coffee.

Three Impressive Naturals

It was solely about 15 years in the past that producers in Ethiopia and Central America started to significantly experiment with pure processing advantageous coffee. Until then, drying coffee in the entire fruit was a follow related nearly solely with poor-quality, mass-produced coffees. Peripheral fermentation throughout drying in the entire fruit tends to impart style traits to the cup that may vary from unpleasantly rotten, by means of seductively brandy-like, to gloriously candy and sophisticated. Specialty coffee producers everywhere in the world at the moment are studying how one can management drying to provide coffees within the constructive vary of that spectrum, and primarily based on this month’s samples, some Colombia producers at the moment are properly into that recreation.

This month’s top-rated coffee, the 96-point Red Rooster “Trust the Process” Full Natural seems to be a triumph of well-managed pure processing, on condition that the tree varieties that have been topic to that processing are the normally plain-tasting, easy Caturra and Colombia. The Red Rooster pure is deeply resonant with sustained, shifting complexity, supported by a construction that reviewer Kim Westerman calls “lyrically candy, mysteriously savory, invitingly tart.”

Like the Red Rooster, this month’s different two top-rated naturals, the Blues Brew Finca La Maria Geisha Natural (94) and the Plat Colombia Diofanor Ruiz (94) are what we’d name clear naturals (or perhaps sober naturals). Neither show a lot alcohol-related nuance, although each are fairly distinctive of their processing-driven expression. The Blues Brew is deeply chocolaty, sweet-savory and pungent. The Plat is higher-toned, fruit-forward however tangy and tart, with some nice yogurty dairy options.

The Latest Wrinkle: Anaerobic Fermented Naturals

With this month’s three samples involving variations on anaerobic ferment or carbonic maceration, we journey farthest from the basic Colombia cup. Nevertheless, these three coffees are usually not excessive examples of the anaerobic model. All appear to retain the acquainted lushly candy tendencies of yeast fermentation mixed with solely average affect of the tangy bacterial ferment related to anaerobic or carbonic strategies.

All three mainly construct on the pure technique. The 95-rated Kakalove Colombia Antioquia Natural Carbonic Maceration Caturra was primarily stored in the entire fruit throughout in depth fermentation in sealed tanks injected with CO2 and afterwards dried in the entire fruit. The result’s a jammy, candy, chocolaty cup with intricate taste nuance and savory depth: dessert-like however complicated. The 94-rated Brioso Colombia Java El Edén can also be primarily a pure coffee fermented in low-oxygen circumstances and dried in the entire fruit, netting a profile each sweetly lush and tangily lactic, to not point out intricate and unique in aromatics. The 93-rated Dory Colombia Finca El Paraiso reveals essentially the most specific anaerobic affect. It additionally was topic to essentially the most complicated process: first 24 hours in the entire fruit in sealed tanks, then pulped or skinned and put again within the tanks for an additional 36 hours of anaerobic/restricted oxygen ferment. It is, frankly, a not-for-everyone success: savory-sweet and complexly herby and chocolaty — suppose candy chocolate sauce with ginger and herbs.

Jason Yu of Dory Coffee Roasters, primarily based in Taipei, Tawian, whose double-anaerobic coffee scored 93 factors. Photo courtesy of Jason Yu.

And a Honey with Variations

It’s good to conclude with a basic cup, albeit one generated by means of nonetheless extra processing experiment. Evie’s Café La Gallera Estate (94) is technically a honey-processed coffee, because it was dried encased within the fruit flesh after being pulped. But alongside the way in which to the drying tables, it was fermented twice, albeit briefly, as soon as in the entire fruit and once more after pulping. Apparently, nevertheless, neither of those ferment episodes concerned restricted oxygen or different anaerobic hijinks. You would possibly name the Evie Café’s honey a discreet experiment producing a discreetly advantageous coffee, balanced however full: softly vibrant with notes of raspberry, chocolate, flowers, nut.

A Quick Return to the Big Picture

Coming again to the very best of each worlds theme I opened with, the Colombia coffee authorities have managed to show the nook on the ravages of local weather change and the good rust illness pandemic beginning in 2009. Mainly pushed by a profitable program of planting disease-resistant coffee varieties, complete Colombia coffee exports have climbed steadily over the previous a number of years.

In the large image, we’ve got to hope that the 100% Colombia program will proceed to roll on efficiently, supported by greater and fairer costs for this sturdy, reliable, important coffee sort. The 100% Colombia program nonetheless offers North American shoppers with the one stable finances coffee expertise accessible in grocery store cans and instants whereas offering a necessary livelihood for Colombia’s a whole bunch of 1000’s of smallholding producers.

Luis Samper, distinguished coffee author, researcher and proponent of the Colombia trade, factors out that the kinds of microlot coffees produced by processing improvements like these described right here (pure, anaerobic, honey) stay the tiniest drop within the bucket within the large financial image for Colombia coffee. Estimates he has seen places exports of such alternative-processed Colombia coffees at round 15,000 70-kilo baggage per yr. Colombia’s complete exports in 2020 got here to round 10.7 million 70-kilo baggage of Arabica coffee of varied qualities.

But for Coffee Review and its readers, and hopefully for the producers passionately engaged in refining conventional processes or diving headlong into new alternate options, this tiny drop of specialty Colombias is a glistening jewel deep with inventive chance and every day pleasure.


Coffee Review want to thank visitor cupper Lily Logan, Operations Manager at Bay Area CoRoasters (CoRo), who made priceless contributions to this month’s evaluations.


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