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The Colombian Coffee Hub brings fresh origin information for you to build your knowledge on different coffee topics from seed to cup. The FNC, a team of agronomical engineers, scientists and coffee farmers will be in charge of getting this information through to you.
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Quality and diversity are two closely linked elements of Colombian coffee. This country, which exclusively produces mild Arabica coffee, has many types of soil, terrain and climates provided by the three Andean mountain ranges that cut across the country from south to north, enabling Colombia to offer coffee connoisseurs a very diverse range of sensory profiles.
Coffee growing in Colombia covers all of the country’s mountainous areas, at different altitudes, that range from approximately 1,100 meters in the north of the country to up to 2,300 meters in the highest areas in the south. This is a high altitude crop, frequently grown on very steep slopes, by over 500,000 farmers whose plantations added up to 914,000 hectares at the end of 2010. Farming on plots which barely average 1.6 hectares each makes growing coffee in Colombia a predominantly family business that, after many decades, has enabled the consolidation of a coffee culture linked to traditional and manual processes that maximize crop…
The Coffea genus belongs to the Rubiaceae family, which has over 500 different genus and over 6,000 species. The majority of these are either trees or bushes. Taxonomically, the plants classified under the Coffea genus are characterized by a cleft in the ventral part of their seeds (sutura coffeanum). This genus varies from small bushes up to trees that grow over 10 meters (3x feet) tall; its leaves are simple, opposite; its stipules vary as much in size as in shape; its flowers are hermaphrodites, white and tubular; and its fruits consist of drupes of different shapes, colors and sizes; each fruit normally contains two seeds.
Linneo (1737) classified the plant as a new genus, Coffea, with only one known species at the time, C. arabica. Today 103 species have been identified. All native from Africa and Madagascar (including the Comoro Islands) Nonetheless, only two are responsible for 99% of the genus's global commerce: Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora.
The Coffea canephora…
The harvest seasons are related to the seasonality in which the coffee trees blossom in the Tropic. In the case of Arabica coffee, the harvest occurs between 210 and 224 days after the trees have bloomed. The blossoms are induced when the trees have faced the absence of rain for a few weeks.
This is known by professionals as hydric stress and when it is followed by sustained rainfall the trees’ hormones react in such a way that the buds flower. In this way, tropical or subtropical countries that have dry and wet periods (dry and rainy seasons) during the year, tend to have concentrated flowering seasons and, consequently, their harvest is concentrated 8 months after the blossom takes place.
When blossoms are concentrated it usually leads to the concentration of the harvest season in a short span, which favors harvesting practices by permitting the use of semi-sophisticated equipment to perform the task of collecting the coffee cherries.
However, the equipment used to…
Coffee regions in Colombia have been divided in three big zones: Northern, Central and Southern.
All these regions have different climatic, topographic and cultural marked differences which give each of the coffees produced a differentiating taste in cup. Here´s what you will find depending on the region.
There's a region for every taste.
Cenicafé is Colombia’s National Coffee Research Center, created in 1938 as part of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) to achieve its mission of supporting coffee growers through competitive, sustainable and applicable technologies and knowledge to improve coffee production.
Cenicafé is the premiere center of its kind in the world. It hosts 67 full time researchers, 44 of which hold post graduate degrees in variety of disciplines, including Phd and Post doctorate degrees. It also has ongoing agreements with a number of academic institutions in the US and Europe, including of course Colombia.
The Center has developed expertise in a number of areas of the coffee growing business, including genetic studies in order to develop new varieties, biodiversity and coffee growing, post harvesting technologies, pests and diseases, environmental conservation and carbon footprint and denomination of origin.
Its focus has always been to maintain the premium quality of Colombian Coffee for the benefit of its growers and consumers. The commitment of Cenicafé is to…
In the wet mill or beneficio process that is used mostly in countries that grow mild Arabica coffee, the step that comes immediately after removing the pulp from coffee beans is the mucilage removal. The mucilage is a thin, jellylike layer that recovers the bean, composed mostly of water and sugars. The process of removing it is mostly done by fermentation.
Traditionally, fermentation must take place in large tubs with round borders, right after the pulp has been removed, and it takes from 12 to 18 hours for the microorganisms in the mucilage to decompose it. Afterwards, the bean must be washed to fully remove the sugars from the bean. Otherwise the cup quality will end up being affected. There are some variables that can accelerate or decrease the time needed for fermentation. A temperature rise, for example, accelerates the breaking of the enzymes. The water used is also important as it dilutes the sugars in the mucilage. However, to apply…
Cooperatives for coffee producers in Colombia
One of the most important issues discussed around coffee commercialization is what percentage of the market price is actually translated to the grower. The gap between buying and selling price can be as high as 22% according to the International coffee Organization An average coffee farmer in Colombia may produce say 20 bags of 60 kilos (1,200 kg) of green coffee per year. Of course, having fresh coffee all year round implies that all thees bags are not produced at the same time. In fact, the average transaction made in a Colombian coffee cooperative is of 180 kg of parchment coffee (equivalent to around 135kg of green coffee).
Since coffee growers grow their coffee in their farms, not in local towns, they have to pay for transportation to bring the coffee they wish to sell from their farm to the market. Given the size of the actual transaction, this costs can be a substantial share of…
The coffee leaf rust (CLR) is the one of the most important enemies of coffee growers. This fungus can wipe out plantations and bring growers to abject poverty in the same way it did to the Dutch run coffee plantations of Ceylan in the 19th century. This fungus has the potential to substantially reduce the trees production and in occasions kills the trees. Controlling it is key for the sustainability of coffee plantations and coffee growers families so that a “Ceylan scenario” is avoided. Thus the plant breeding efforts in several countries to generate rust resistant varieties and hybrids.
This is why rust resistant genes for C. Arabica coffees are so valued. Fortunately, an exceptional natural occurrence took place at the beginning of the 20th century in Timor island. A natural and exceptional pollination took place between a C. Arabica and a Robusta plants, and the resulting 44 chromosome hybrid became part of the C. Arabica world with one outstanding feature:…
This document describes the different defects found on green beans as well as its incidence on roasted beans and its cup, and allows the reader to properly identify them.
We invite you to learn, to identify and to preserve the quality of Colombian coffee and by doing so, to contribute to maintain the good image of Colombia´s main agro-product: our Coffee.
Alvaro Gaitán is a Colombian Microbiologist who has a PHD in plant pathology and is the head of the Coffee Diseases Study group in the National Coffee Reasearch Center (Cenicafé).
He introduces us to the Genetic Improvement program which aims to to ensure productivity and quality in Colombian Coffees.
The improved varieties developed by Cenicafé have a durable resistance against coffee rust, adapt to all Colombian climates and have bigger beans. Watch our video to learn more about this subject.
Rust Control, Quality and Sustainability
Huver Posada - PhD
Various articles shared in this site, written and reviewed by FNC’s scientists, have illustrated a number of topics related to new variety development. We now know, thanks to modern techniques, the origin of the Coffea arabica species, the reduced genetic variability of commercially produced Arabica varieties, and the fact that quality is a trait that derives from the interaction of a given plant (i.e. its genetic composition) the environment where it grows, and the practices (harvesting and post harvesting) applied to such trees.
As we have explained in previous articles, the development of the Castillo variety was by no means a simple process. First, this is a composed variety (that is, a mixture of seeds collected from different lines at F5 generation lines), with particular lines that adapt to different regional environments within Colombia. Second, it is obtained from a cross between the Caturra variety and the Timor Hybrid, and using the line…
Cenicafé devised this equipement for the transformation of the coffee cherry into parchment coffee. It includes the process of depulping without water, demucilage, washing and cleaning of parchment coffee, as well as mucilage mixture with the pulp using a depulping machine, a demucilager and an endless screw conveyor.
Castillo is a crossed variety which is obtained from a mixture of seeds of two different breeding lines. It's characterized for its genes which make it resistant to leaf rust. Developed by Cenicafé in 2005, the variety is named Castillo as a tribute to Cenicafé researcher, Jaime Castillo Zapata (1928- 2001), a dedicated breeder of coffee. Take a look at this infographic.
This daily exercise supports the purchase guarantee policy established by the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) that guarantees to coffee growers the highest possible price for their product.
One of the FNC policies that seeks to assure that the greatest possible proportion of the international price of coffee indeed is transferred to the producers, is the daily publication of the reference price for the 125 kilogram weight load (two sacks) of dry parchment coffee. This involves the need to communicate the domestic price so growers can have up to date knowledge of market prices which requires to consult, on a daily basis, the evolution of the different variables that are used to calculate domestic prices based on: rate of exchange, Colombian coffee premiums, milling and transportation costs and the evolution of the price in the New York coffee exchange for mild arabicas.
This strategy helps to improve the negotiation leverage of small coffee growers. However to make it effective, the…
Using shade for growing coffee is a farming method that it is used to produce coffee in areas where extreme temperatures and soils with low organic materials would not allow to otherwise. Shade provides a suitable microclimate that protects coffee trees form high temperatures, help preserve surface soil humidity and ensures flowering and productivity.
Average temperatures oscillating between 21 and 18.8 degrees Celsius, typical of Colombian mountainsides, are ideal for growing Arabica coffee.
Although the average temperature at which coffee is grown depends almost directly on altitude (height above sea level), other factors such as micro-climates, winds and distance from the equator may affect temperature variation.
The closer a coffee plantation is to the equator, the more perpendicular sunlight it receives for a longer period of time. This happens in the department of Nariño where it is possible for coffee to grow at higher altitudes.
At higher altitudes coffee tends to have more sweetness and acidity because of the drastic temperature variations between day and night.
Attributes such as aroma, body, acidity, sweetness, cleanness of cup, flavor, and balance define what we call a good coffee´s quality.
Besides climate, soil, and topography variables, quality is the result of a multiplicity of human related tasks and agricultural practices during coffee growing, harvesting and post-harvesting processes.
Therefore, it’s important to understand the…