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Colombian Coffee

Colombian Coffee. Those two words just sort of seem to roll together, don’t they? Colombian coffee. Mmm. Go say them to the nearest java-head. You know who I’m talking about, there’s one in every office. Watch him grin with joy and maybe even twitch a little. Colombian coffee. There’s magic in those words, my friend.

Coffee was first introduced to Colombia in the early 19th century by java-heads who were sick of going all the way to Brazil to get their fix. It soon became the country’s main export and before long, Colombia was one of the world leaders in coffee production.

Coffee grows well on mountainsides, particularly the Arabica bean, which is the highest quality bean there is. The other type of coffee bean, Robusta, is apparently more like a weed than a real crop, and the beans it produces are best suited for high school students planning all-nighters or grinding into brick mortar. Well, that’s what the Colombian Coffee Board says, anyway. Did I mention that all Colombian coffee is Arabica?

Colombian coffee is hand-picked by Juan Valdez look-a-likes, loaded on to donkeys or mules, and brought to special machines, which separate the pulp from the seed. If you’ve never seen a real live coffee bean, they’re a little like a small red cherry, except the part you want is the stone and not the fruit, which has no caffeine in it and is therefore useless, much like a real cherry. So anyway, the seeds are removed and the fruity part is separated out and used for compost, which is a nice way of saying it’s left out to rot. The beans are rinsed out a couple of times, which is one of the reasons why Colombian coffee is special.

Once the beans have been washed, they are left to dry in the sun for a few days. They are lovingly covered at night and when it rains, leading some to suspect that Colombians take better care of their coffee beans than their pets.

Once the beans are dried, it’s time to roast them. Coffee beans are roasted according to a complicated scale with such levels as “full city roast,” “Italian roast,” “high-school kid pulling an all-nighter roast” and “roast of the death of a thousand twitches.” These different levels refer to how long the bean is roasted, and therefore how dark it gets. The lightest roasts are given a couple of minutes under one of those French fry lights, while the darkest roasts are run through leaky old Soviet nuclear reactors by political prisoners given a suit made of tinfoil for protection.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Colombia: Safety, History, Refugees of the War on Drugs, Safety, Money, Etiquette and Dress in Colombia, Tips for Budget Travelers, When to go, Getting There and Away and Laundry.

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
28 Sep 2011

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