Colombian Coffee Flavors By Region

Taste of Colombian Coffee

Colombia is well known for producing some of the highest quality coffee beans in the world. It is the third-largest producer of coffee in the world. And the second-largest producer of Arabica beans, behind Brazil. Colombia’s coffee region is known as the “Coffee Axis” or “Coffee Triangle”, this expansive and mountainous Eje Cafetero region leads the way in Colombian coffee production. 

In Colombia, coffee farmers harvest ripened and mildly sweet coffee cherries by picking them by hand individually. This is a labor intensive but rewarding method. Also, this improves the quality and final flavor of the coffee. It allows producers more control over the final product and decreases the undesired harvesting of unripened beans. 

This is a common problem in other parts of the world where machinery is used for harvesting.  Ripe, hand-picked coffee cherries give you a smooth, sweet, and well-balanced cup of coffee. It makes all the difference.  

Each coffee farm is its own ecosystem, the health of which is maintained through the delicate interplay of plants, animals, and geography. Because of this, Colombia’s unique coffee regions produce quality coffee with distinct flavor profiles. 

Tolima

Tolima has a rich cultural heritage. It was inhabited by the pre-Hispanic civilizations of the Pijaos, Panches, Coyaimas, Yaporoges, Ondaimas, Muzos, Marquetones, Kolimaes, Paeces, and Natagaimas, among many others.

This coffee-growing landscape is part of Colombia’s Eje Cafetero region and situated in the country’s central and eastern mountain ranges. In Tolima, there are mountains with snowy peaks reaching elevations of up to 5,000 meters above sea level.

This variation in elevation causes below-freezing temperatures in the Huila and Tolima mountains as well as temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Magdalena valleys. The Saldaña, Magdalena, Combeima, Cucuana and Coello rivers all run through Tolima.

Of the 47 districts in Tolima, 38 produce coffee. Tolima has a total of 62,000 coffee producing families that farm on a total of 110,000 hectares (nearly 200,000 acres).

Notes of Tolima

Taste of panela honey and citrus; medium-high acidity; medium creamy body; sweet
Fragrance of ripe fruit, honey, and peach; medium body, bright medium acidity, sweet
Floral fragrance with notes of grapefruit and ripe fruit; sweet
Frange of orange, panela honey, and caramel
Sweet Fragrance of  mandarin, melon; taste mandarin, malty; creamy body and medium acidity
Sweet fragrance with notes of grapefruit and mature fruit; taste of apricot and peach; subtle and creamy body; phosphoric acidity

Valle del Cauca

Travel towards the South on the slope of the Western mountain range and you’ll locate the unique Valle del Cauca, or the Valley of the Cauca River. The river travels up through the mountainous North through the Central Mountain Range, eventually exiting out into the Carribean Sea.

Of the 42 districts, 39 are coffee producers, making up a total of 41,000 hectares (around 101,000 acres) worth of coffee farms. The farming communities are collectively working together to reforest the area with native plants. This focus is aimed at restoring the watersheds to guarantee water for the coffee plantations, and to combat issues brought by climate change.

Notes of Valle del Cauca

Jasmine, honeyed orange malt medium-high phosphoric acidity, subtle creamy body
Red fruits, grapes, coffee cherry, wine, medium-high acidity, bright phosphoric, medium body, sweet

Cauca

The department of Cauca leads Colombian coffee-growing regions in producing specialty, high-quality coffees. In the state of Cauca, coffee is farmed in both the Western and Eastern mountain ranges with a total of 90,000 coffee-farming families. Coffee varieties produced in the region include Castillo, Colombia, Caturra, Tipica, Borbon ,and Tabi. In total, Cauca has 34  municipalities currently producing coffee

Notes of Cauca

Aromas of chocolate, caramel, hazelnut; taste of caramel and hazelnut; creamy and subtle body; medium and pronounced acidity

Huila

Huila has the perfect growing conditions for producing specialty coffee throughout the year. Neighboring the Putumayo, Cauca, and Nariño regions, the soils of ‘Valle de Laboyos’ have been regarded as some of the most suitable for growing coffee anywhere in the world. Huila has managed to consolidate more than 300 producer associations, the implementation of good practices and toward the production of their varieties: Colombia, Caturra, and Geisha.

Notes of Huila

Fragrance of malt, nut cedar, fruit; flavor of malt; high medium body; low acidity
Citrus fragrance, fruit, sweet; fruit and sweet flavor; high medium body; malic acidity

Quindío 

Rich in volcanic soil, Quindío is the smallest department in Colombia, comprising just 1,845 square kilometers (nearly 1150 square miles). It is one of the four states that make up the country’s Coffee Axis and is characterized by its diverse ecosystems filled with exuberant vegetation. There are 12 coffee producing districts in Quindío. They are populated by nearly 6,000 coffee producers with a total of 31,000 hectares (over 19,000 acres) planted in coffee.

Notes of Quindío 

Fragrance of pepper and jasmine; sweet flavor of malt; creamy body; low acidity

Risaralda

Risaralda is Colombia’s second-smallest department and was once home to a number of pre-Hispanic civilizations, including the Quimbaya, Gorrones, and Caramantos. 

Risaralda has a surface area of nearly 2600 square kilometers (around 1600 square miles). The region is characterized by fertile volcanic soil, lush forests, and year-round rainfall, making it an ideal location for coffee growers and is home to some spectacular specialty coffee farms.There are 46,000 hectares (over 116,000 acres) of coffee planted in Risaralda. 19,000 producing families work on this land in 14 of Risaraldas producing districts.

The largest producing municipality is Belen de Umbria, followed by Santuario. The coffee farms in the region carry an average of one hectare per coffee farm and an average production of 21 bags per hectare. 

Notes of Risaralda 

  • Aromas of hazelnut, chocolate, and caramel; tastes of chocolate and caramel; sparkling body, high medium; phosphoric acidity
  • Fruit fragrance, with notes of sweet cherry and mint; flavor of cherry; creamy medium body; medium acidity
  • Fragrance of red floral fruits; flavor of cherry; medium and creamy body; medium phosphoric acidity
  • Fragrance of chocolate, caramel, citris, and jasmine; taste of chocolate and caramel; medium creamy body; medium acidity
  • Fragrance of red fruits, panela honey, and green apple; taste of red fruits; medium, creamy and subtle body; medium acidity
  • Fragrance of peach, caramel, and citrus; caramel flavor; creamy body; predicted acidity
  • Fragrance of chocolate, caramel, and vanilla; flavor of malt and caramel; creamy body; medium phosphoric acidity  
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