A long history of successful coffee growing traditions in Colombia has helped make Colombian coffee famous around the world. Colombia’s coffee country covers vast regions of Andes Mountain Range farming landscapes, where scenic coffee farms set on misty slopes and nestled within lush foothills generously produce smooth bodied brews. 600,000 growers in Colombia supply the world with about 12% of its Arabica coffee.
The coffee here is more than just a crop; coffee growing has become a part of Colombia’s national identity. The country’s unique history of sustainable coffee farming traditions on small plots helped earn the region a spot on UNESCO’s world heritage list. Evidence suggests that Jesuit priests first introduced coffee seeds to South America in the early 1700s. Colombian Coffee was not exported until 1835 when 2,500 pounds of beans were sent to the US. By the early 1900s, just after the Thousand Days War, a new period of peace inspired many to settle in the western mountain areas to make a living growing coffee on small plots of land.
A new railway and completion of the Panama Canal inspired greater exportation of the crop.Today, the vast majority of coffee growers in Colombia continue growing on small plots of land, many of which are family-owned farms. Most growers are also represented by the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia (Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia, or FNC in Spanish), a group made popular by Juan Valdez, the fictitious coffee farmer featured in TV ads designed to promote the Federation.
Since 1927, the FNC has worked to protect the coffee industry in Colombia, carry out extensive research on industry-related topics and promote its interests. Juan Valdez coffee shops can be found in exclusive locations such as New York’s 57th street and just across from the White House in Washington D. C. There are some coffee growers not represented by the FNC, including nineteen companies that are officially labeled as fair trade businesses by the Fair Trade Labeling Association.
Tourists are encouraged to take a trip to Colombia’s coffee growing axis, where bold aromas in bold abundance invite us to explore the scenic landscapes of the region, known around the world for the robust coffee flavors that it produces. Hundreds of coffee farms stretch over the departments of Quindio, Caldas and Risaralda and Valle del Cauca, areas included as UNESCO world heritage sites. Lodging is available in many of these areas, where visitors can take informative tours around peaceful farms.
One of the region’s most popular attractions is the National Coffee Park in Montenegro. The park features a museum that educates the public on coffee culture, a coffee farm, a nature reserve, horseback riding and even amusement rides such as bumper cars, zip lines, and roller coasters. Panaca Park in Quindio is another coffee themed park, where visitors are encouraged to interact with animals and participate in the area’s agricultural culture. Colombia’s unique natural landscape, perfect for cultivating the coffee bush, along with the unifying efforts of the FNC and the hard work of the growers themselves, have all helped make Colombian coffee a successful industry for nearly a century. The industry, however, has not been without its problems.
The global coffee crisis of 1989, when the International Coffee Agreement fell apart, caused profits for growers to shrink. In recent years, global warming has greatly compromised coffee production in Colombia and around the world. The FNC has agreed with a report issued in 2009 by the International Coffee Organization which stated that climate change was the greatest factor in changes in worldwide coffee production. Tourism and a general rise in coffee prices around the world have helped improve Colombia’s economy.