Colombian Specialty Coffee Scene. A Perspective from Café Quindío
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Project and Expansion Manager at Café Quindío
We started our journey as roasters in 1991 at a time when specialty coffee was not even on our country’s most distant radar. Born in Quindío, a department in the Colombian coffee region, we dreamed of the day that Colombians could also drink outstanding coffee. These types of Colombian coffees could easily be found elsewhere, overseas, as at that time, and still to a certain extent now, all the best coffee was exported.
We started roasting high quality coffee and selling it locally in a region where even though it was produced locally, people in general had no idea about quality coffee. Colombians at this moment in time didn’t give a cup of coffee the value that it truly deserved. In Armenia, as a child, I remember coffee was given away for free in most restaurants. There was no attention to the preparation or quality. In fact, we brought the first ever Espresso machine to Armenia in 1998, a region in the middle of the Colombian coffee region. At that time there was very low competition as there were few other coffee roasters, nationally, willing to add value to coffee through buying a quality raw product. Customers also, in general, did not seem to be particularly concerned about the coffee they drank and its quality.
The growing boom in the consumption of specialty coffee in Colombia is recent. These trends were developed in consuming countries and arrived a little later here. This boom has given us the opportunity to grow, with this growth being mainly in the coffee shop sector, now with 30 cafes in six cities. We’ve seen the evolution of our industry in Colombia toward quality focused brands and customers interested in traceability, quality and learning more about their cup of coffee. Consumers here are now willing to pay for a good cup. This growth in Colombia is driven mainly by customer awareness of the importance of consuming a responsible product, better economic circumstances, as well as a safer socio-political environment, allowing the development of a strong tourist sector.
Our best sellers are organic coffees and microlot limited editions which usually represent different farms, origins and varieties. These sorts of coffees are also highly demanded in capsules and mono-doses. A great change we have also seen in our industry is that there is now a much wider variety of options to source coffee. There are many companies that are committed to quality, that want to work closely with growers and that share the same company values as us. For us, it is very important to maintain quality standards while making sure that all producers receive fair payment.
We might have been a coffee country that had no idea how to drink coffee, but we now have a niche market that is growing. I believe it is the responsibility of roasters and coffee shop owners to keep this movement alive and evolving. We are the ones in contact with the final customer. We are the ones that can tell the story behind the coffee to make consumers fall in love with it and see the true value, allowing us to demand more from our coffee producers. We will continue working in this direction to make Colombian customers coffee lovers and connoisseurs, proud of the coffee we produce in our country and of the more than half a million coffee growing families who produce it.