Colombian coffee is a favorite for many a coffee connoisseur, but why exactly are these brews coming so highly recommended?
Stick around for a full break down on what’s happening in the Colombian Coffee industry plus some of our personal faves of Colombian origin.
At A Glance: Our Top 5 Picks for Columbian Coffee
Quick Summary: The Best Columbian Coffee
|STAY GOLDEN COFFEE CO. ESTATE LA ESPERANZA||Check Price →|
|Don Pablo Supremo Coffee||Check on Amazon →|
|SPARROWS COFFEE JOVEN CAUCA||Check Price →|
|Blackwelder Coffee’s Bucaramanga Coffee||Check on Amazon →|
|Supremo Dark Roast Coffee||Check on Amazon →|
|Juan Valdez Premium Selection||Check on Amazon →|
|Cubico’s Nariño Coffee||Check on Amazon →|
|Don Franscisco’s Supremo Coffee||Check on Amazon →|
|Volcanica Supremo Andeano Estate Coffee||Check on Amazon →|
|Koffee Kult Huíla Coffee||Check on Amazon →|
Colombia is the 3rd largest coffee producing country in the world, accounting for about 12% of all production and falling short of only Brazil and Vietnam. Within the country, there are more than 500,000 families producing coffee.
Coffee from this region is usually dark roasted and is favored for espresso brewing, though a light or medium roast also does well in bringing out the profile of Colombian beans.
One of the biggest factors that makes Colombian coffee unique is that they almost exclusively produce Arabica coffee. For example, some of the specific varieties include Typica, Bourbon, Caturra, and Maragogype. Arabica is generally considered the superior bean type (as opposed to Robusta), so it dominating the production in Colombia speaks to the country’s overall quality.
Furthermore, Colombia is one of only precious few countries, like Costa Rica, that this type of production is a reality for. So it’s a pretty impressive attribute when you also consider the scale of their production.
Another label you’ll see often on Colombian coffee is “Supremo.” This actually refers to the size of the beans in the batch. Frequently, the largest beans of a Colombian coffee harvest are sorted out and sold separately under this label. The belief behind this practice is that the larger beans pack more flavor.
Top Favorite Colombian Coffees
Stay Golden Coffee Co. Estate La Esperanza
Stay Golden Coffee Co. Estate La Esperanza
So juicy, so chocolaty, so delicious. Intensely fruity notes of kiwi and strawberry meet a rich, chocolaty body and a deep, winey sweetness.
We’ll start with the best news about these beans first: drinking coffee purchased from Stay Golden Coffee Co. means you’re doing a little bit of good for those who farmed it. The company gives five percent of its profits back to its partners so they can invest in biodiversity.
While you’re celebrating the work your dollars are doing on the Colombian farm on which these beans are grown, pour yourself a cup of this medium roast and savor every sip of the buttery chardonnay tasting notes.
Don Pablo Supremo Coffee
A Colombian woman and her American husband founded Don Pablo in 1989. Since then, the company has prided itself on its small-batch roasting that takes place in small, regional facilities across the US. So you can count on quality and freshness with this one.
The coffee itself has the characteristic mildness and acidity of Colombian coffee, but exhibits a fuller body and a sweet, rich flavor. It’s also a medium-dark roast complemented by occasional citrus notes.
Sparrows Coffee Joven Cauca
Sparrows Coffee Joven Cauca
This coffee is produced in Cauca Colombia by the Cafinorte co-op’s Young Coffee Producers Program, which seeks to help 200 young people become sustainable and expert specialty coffee producers. It has a smooth body and comforting chocolate flavors up front, with enough cherry cola depth to make for a really fun cup.
What’s more impressive, the fact that this medium-roasted bean blend from Sparrows Coffee was selected by the world’s youngest Q grader (someone who evaluates coffee based on Specialty Coffee Association practices) or that it’s produced by the Cafinorte Co-op’s Young Coffee Producers Program? The answer to that question may vary based on who’s asked, but there’s one thing we can all be sure of: it’s delicious!
This cup is light and sweet, and with the hints of citrus, marmalade, violet, and chocolate throughout the brew, it’s basically like springtime in a cup.
Blackwelder Coffee’s Bucaramanga Coffee
This medium-dark roast is from Santander in the Northern region of Colombia. Like many Colombian coffees, these beans are Supremo. Also, for this brand, that label actually does translate to some pretty top-notch beans.
The brew is rich with a milder acidity than many of the others on the list. Also, you’ll detect notes of vanilla, chocolate, and nuts followed by a smooth aftertaste.
Supremo Dark Roast Coffee
Another medium-dark to dark supremo option, this one shifts away from the more traditional Colombian flavors in favor of a more complex, earthy profile. The dominant notes are earth and cherry, which are complemented by a more subtle honey-tones sweetness. That sweetness, plus the mild acidity makes for a delightfully complex cup.
Additionally, the brew is full-bodied with a thick mouthfeel. So, if you’re looking for a something a little different in the lineup, give this one a try!
Juan Valdez Premium Selection
Juan Valdez is a Colombia based company named after the fictional farmer who has become the face and logo associated with identifying quality Colombian coffee. Likewise, they offer a wide range of products from across several of the country’s many growing regions. Furthermore, between their premium, gourmet, and sustainable lines, you should find something that suits your tastes.
Above, we’ve included a link to their best-selling, certified organic coffee. It has a very mild acidity and works well as a mellow breakfast brew. If you want something stronger, try their Bold option for a more more intense Colombian brew.
Cubico’s Nariño Coffee
This is the first of a couple of our medium roast recommendations. As the name insdicates, it’s from Nariño, which is a part of the Southern coffee region known for specialty coffee as well as the trio of departments thought to be the “new Colombian triangle.” The beans are grown in rich, volcanic soul at high altitudes, and the result is incredible.
With this coffee, you get a complex cup filled with notes of lemon, lime, notes, and even a unique maple-toned sweetness. It also has a pungent, citrusy aroma that matches the flavor profile of the brew.
Don Franscisco’s Supremo Coffee
Another great medium roast is from a family run business that was founded in 1870. So you know they’re doing something right. Plus, they have a Direct Impact program dedicated to improving and maintaining their sustainability.
Also a Supremo offering, this one really stands out with a distinct richness and notes of fruit and wine. The soft aroma complements the heady flavor with a sweet florals. A mid-level brightness gives way to a smooth finish, making for an all around pleasant drinking experience.
Volcanica Supremo Andeano Estate Coffee
Our last medium roast hails from a coffee estate located in the Andes mountain range. The location offers an altitude that is optimal for growing high-quality coffee and it shows in the brew. Roasted and sold by Volcanica (one of our faves around here) you can count on greatness when it comes to both taste and sustainability.
These beans brew a smooth, balanced cup with a light body. And, the flavor profile includes notes of fruit, nuts, and dark chocolate. Overall, it’s a great example of why both the region and the brand are so well loved.
Also, you can check out the Colombian Peaberry option from this brand if you’re in the mood for something a little earthier with malt, walnut, and wood/cherry toned chocolate flavors.
Koffee Kult Huíla Coffee
Next up, we’re returning to medium-dark roast territory with another Southern-based coffee. Like Nariño, Huíla is 1/3 of the new triangle that’s pumping out top-notch specialty coffee.
This Huíla coffee from Koffee Kult will first catch your attention with its intense, chocolate aroma. Underneath the delicious smell lies a rich brew with notes of cherry and chocolate with a caramel-toned sweetness. Also, the acidity is milder than the typical Colombian Coffee, allowing the cup to round out clean and sweet.
Peet’s Colombia Luminosa
This coffee made the list for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a great option if you’re looking to try good Colombian coffee without a premium price tag. Also, it’s one of the very few light roast Colombian coffees available! So those of you who prefer more delicate profile with a bright acidity.
The brew is pleasantly mild with a smooth flavor and delicate aromas. Some people pinpoint the sweetness to passion flower and stone fruit notes.
Java Planet Santander Coffee
If you’re looking for sustainability, Java Planet has you covered. They are USDA certified organic, Fair Trade, and Bird-friendly. So you can enjoy your coffee guilt-free!
As for the brew, you can expect a nice, balanced cup with nutty and cherry notes. Overall the taste and feel of this is classically Colombian, just a little softer. If that sounds up your alley, don’t hesitate to check this one out!
As we’ll discuss, there is a good bit of regional variation in Colombian coffee. However there are a few identifiable features that seem to stretch across them.
First, Colombian coffees tend to be mild and well-balanced. The flavor profile often includes fruity notes ranging from tropical to red berry and apple. Also, floral, chocolate, sugar cane, and caramel notes are not uncommon.
As far as aroma, you can expect citrus, fruits, and hints of spice. Furthermore, the brews tend to have medium bodies with a bright acidity.
However, those baselines can and often do shift depending on the region. There are over 22 different coffee growing regions in Colombia, which are accordingly separated into 4 main zones.
Coffee from the northern region tends to have more traces of chocolate and nut flavor with less acidity and more body than other Colombian coffees.
As far as growing environment, this region has only one dry and one wet season. These are from December to March and April to November each year. As the wet season approaches, the coffee bloom and is eventually harvested at the end of the same season (around early November).
The growing conditions vary depending on the subregion. Some are similar to Central America while others are more exposed to sun radiation, forcing farmers to utilize shade.
The central zone has a couple of the most well-known and renowned subregions of Colombian coffee production. Above all, the coffee from across this zone tends to be herbal and fruity with a higher acidity.
Firstly, you may recognize the acronym MAM from shopping for premium Colombian coffee. MAM stands for the regions Medellin, Armenia, and Manizales. These are located in the Central zone and are known for producing top-quality coffee.
The Colombian Triangle is also located in the Central zone. If you’ve been exploring the world of Colombian coffee, chances are you’ve come across some mention of the Coffee Triangle or Coffee Belt. This is a specific region that produces the majority of the coffee coming from Colombia. It is made up of Caldas, Risaralda, and Quindío, which combined have a pretty significant coffee output.
Similarly, Antioquia and Tolima are are two very large coffee producing regions that are located in this area.
Lastly, this zone has two harvest seasons thanks to having two distinct sets of wet and dry seasons.
In the South, you’ll find stronger hints of acidity and citrus. Also, his area lies closer to the equator and has higher altitudes, which are associated with better quality coffee.
Consequently, some people describe the grouping of Nariño, Cauca, and Huila as the “New Colombian Coffee Triangle.” This area is known for producing specialty coffee with fruity and caramel notes more prominent aromas.
Furthermore, the average farm size is much smaller than in the other zones. The South zone also has only one wet and one dry season, but the harvest is in the Spring and Summer rather than Fall like the North Zone. This is part of what allows for Colombian coffee to be sold year-round.
Finally, the last zone is also the smallest. The Eastern zone includes only Arauca, Casanare, Meta, and Caquetá. Most noteworthy, there has been a high priority placed on coffee growth in this region by helping farmers growing their farm size and focusing on varieties better suited to the area.
This region is similar in climate to the Northern region, but it has more rainfall and higher humidity levels.
There are a couple of factors that have affected and continue to hurt the Colombian Coffee industry that leas to the current “coffee crisis,” which some say has been going on since the 1990s.
Market Prices vs Production Cost
Firstly, the global market price for coffee is almost entirely detached from Colombia’s production prices. Instead, it is set in New York and largely dictated by United States monetary policy and the mammoth Brazilian and Vietnam markets.
The result has been meager wages for Colombian farmers as they try to compete with the other industry behemoths, while still maintaining quality control. Meanwhile, many roasters and especially distributors profit from their products more than the farmers themselves.
Additionally in recent years, many Colombian farms have battled against pests that have been devastating to crops. In 2018, two destructive fungi and the coffee borer beetle were threatening some 500,000 family-run farms, according to NBC. Previously, coffee leaf rust caused a 31% decrease in coffee production in just a few year.
Lastly, like many other regions of the world, climate change has become a major concern for Colombian Coffee farmers. As a result of the shift in temperature and rainfall, there has been significant impact on crop growth and yields, which is devastating for many of the smaller coffee estates across the country.
Sources vary on whether the outlook on the coffee crisis issue is improving or worsening. However, it is clear that moves towards sustainable practices such as Fair or Direct trade do help improve the livelihood of farmers in the country.
With nearly 4 million people relying on the coffee industry within the country, sustainability is vital. While many cannot get certifications due to costs, roughly 42% of Colombian farms have sustainable practices to some degree.
Accordingly, the Colombian Coffee Federation (FNC) has pledged to achieve sustainability across Colombia’s coffee industry by 2027. Consequently, if achieved, this could greatly improve the outlook for the industry there.
Whether you opt for an espresso to experience the body, acidity and aftertaste or an Aeropress for a smooth balanced cup, a Colombian brew won’t disappoint. With a variety of regional profiles to choose from, there’s something out there from everyone.
Also, considering the current state of the Colombian Coffee industry, we recommend doing your research as always to make sure the brand you’re buying from looking out for the future. That way, above all, we can continue to enjoy the top-notch quality coming from Colombia.