With coffee grown throughout more than 600 municipalities in 23 departments of the country, Colombia’s coffee industry balances rich traditions with a constant movement toward ever-evolving production practices. The country is filled with more than a half-million coffee producers, 650,000+ individual farms, and approximately 4.2 billion coffee trees, allowing ample opportunity for this balance to exist. While we see increasing numbers of non-traditional varieties and processing innovations each year, more than 98% of all coffee produced in Colombia still undergoes traditional Washed processing, is manually harvested, and is comprised of the varieties that built the country’s reputation for mild profiles and consistent quality like Caturra, Castillo, and Variedad Colombia. This means that as coffee drinkers get to explore the novel cup profiles of fresh anaerobic or co-fermented lots, they can always find the clean Washed profiles that have distinguished Colombia on the global stage.
Washed coffee being patio dried in a covered drying area at Finca Monteblanco in Huila, Colombia
Beyond the farming practices used by producers, Colombia’s natural environment makes it unique among coffee exporting countries in a number of ways. Principally, Colombia’s harvest persists year-round rather than being concentrated into a few months like other coffee origins. Each region experiences two harvests each year rather than just one; these include one larger volume and one smaller volume harvest, and are referred to as “main crop” and “fly crop,” or “principal” and “mitaca.” Though the two harvests last just a few months, each region’s harvest begins at a different time due to the country’s distinctly varied topography and innumerable microclimates. Colombia’s coffee growing area includes the three branches of the nation’s Andes mountains, separating regions and at times subdividing others, allowing coffee to be grown from 1,100 meters above sea level all the way up to 2,300 meters, creating significant climatic diversity throughout 840,000 hectares of cultivated land.
Monthly coffee production in thousands of 60 kg bags. Source: Colombian Coffee Growers Federation
Though Colombia as a coffee origin is known for delivering mild lots, each department’s coffee stands apart from the next with varied flavors attributed generally to the region. This is due to various environmental factors, like soil composition, average rainfall distribution, the amount of sunlight the area receives, and much more. For example, coffees from the towering and cool mountains of Nariño are associated with a juicy cup, filled with bright acidity and floral aromas, while the southern portion of nearby Huila is thought of as offering coffees ripe with citrus, stone fruit, and a more refined acidity. Both may still be considered “clean and mild” overall, but these coffees grown in relatively close proximity distinguish themselves clearly from one another.
A view of the mountains with rows of coffee growing at Hacienda El Obraje in Nariño, Colombia
Our Colombian exporting partners work across many of the country’s departments, and we’re proud that our sourcing team based in Medellín work with them to deliver a range of coffees sourced through ongoing sustainable partnerships. From single-producer lots showcasing the latest developments in coffee production to classic regional blends, you can find a full spectrum of Colombian offerings in our Spot position.
Regions of Colombia Ally Coffee currently sources Spot coffee from with general harvest periods
Read on below to learn more about each region in Colombia we currently source from, including information like their general harvest periods and cup profiles, and click on the headers to see all of our current Spot offerings from each department.
Located in the northwest corner of Colombia, Antioquia is perhaps Colombia’s most traditional coffee producing department. Farms ranging from small single-producer plots to large scale estates cover the mountains that run through the department, many of which have been technified to apply the latest agronomic innovations to their production. Antioquia’s coffees are often characterized by flavors of red fruits and chocolate, delivering rich flavors from the steep slopes of the Western Andes.
Eduardo Fernandez-Restrepo at his Finca El Zacatin in Antioquia, Colombia
Part of Colombia’s coffee axis, or eje cafetero, along with Risaralda and Quindío, Caldas is a hub of coffee activity in the country. The region’s rolling landscape is defined by slopes dotted with coffee, with near-constant misty cloud cover protecting the crops from excess sun. Coffees from Caldas are typically known for their cup profile of milk chocolate, brown sugar, and berries, embodying a sweet take on classic Colombian Mild flavors.
Luis Jose Valdes at his Finca La Cristalina in Caldas, Colombia
Nestled between Nariño, Tolima, and Huila, the department of Cauca is home to more than 90,000 coffee producers who average just over one hectare of coffee production each. The region’s soil is rich with nutrients due to volcanic ash, and the climate includes warm days and cool nights as winds from the high plateaus of the Central Andes blow across the landscape. Coffees from Cauca typicall offer confection-like sweetness, with a creamy cup filled with flavors of caramel and sugar cane.
Leinida Calambas posing with one of her coffee trees at her Finca El Mirador in Cauca, Colombia
Found where the Central and Eastern ranges of the Andes mountains meet, the coffee growing areas of Huila center around the city of Pitalito in the south of the department. Split between the northern and southern portions of the region, the region sees two cycles of main and fly crops, with coffee harvested nearly every month of the year. Huila’s coffee have earned their reputation with a usual cup profile featuring stone fruit, citrus, a fine acidity, and pleasant floral tones.
Claudia Samboni posing with yellow coffee cherries at her Finca Las Nubes in Huila, Colombia
Bordering Ecuador in Colombia’s southwest corner, Nariño is home to the convergence of all three branches of the Colombian Andes. This natural feature creates a multitude of microclimates and provides some of the highest growing elevations of any region in Colombia, resulting in coffees that often present with bright acidity, sweet and juicy flavors, and pronounced floral notes.
Coffee producing members of the Aponte community in Nariño, Colombia
Another part of Colombia’s eje cafetero, Risaralda is the only deparment of Colombia recognized as a Model Forest by the International Model Forest Network. The region’s soils have their origin in igneous rocks and volcanic ash, benefitting the nearly 20,000 coffee producers who maintain their farms on slopes descending toward the Río Cauca. Coffees from Risaralda often showcase flavors of apple, cocoa, and berries, with fine floral notes in the cup.
Julio Madrid in the drying area of his Finca La Riviera in Risaralda, Colombia
Found in north-central Colombia, Santander’s long agricultural history is intertwined with the history of coffee in the country. Some of the first coffee farms in Colombia were established in this mountainous department, and today the region is still dotted with farms where smallholder producers make use of fresh water sources and rich soil, utilizing integrated forests as shade trees on their properties to deliver classically rich lots with low acidity and flavors of chocolate and nuts.
10 of the 22 women coffee producers who operate Finca Santa Maria in Santander, Colombia
Ranking first in the nation’s production of rice and sesame, and with 71,000 coffee farms across 32 of the department’s 47 municipalities, Tolima is an important agricultural area for Colombia. Coffee is harvested throughout the year in the region’s diverse topography, where coffee production is found on the mountain ranges of Santa Marta, La Macarena, and the eastern Cordilleras. Production here tends toward an organic approach, bringing the area’s farmers recognition from around the world. Tolima’s coffee typically offer balanced flavors of dried fruit and chocolate with a medium acidity.
Nolberto Olaya with green coffee ripening on a coffee tree at his Finca La Cinta in Tolima, Colombia