Colombia’s best-quality export was front and centre at Cafés de Colombia Expo this year.
The capital’s exhibition centre, Corferias, was transformed into a giant café as Cafés de Colombia Expo took over the site. With free espresso shots at every turn, the smell of delicious coffee permeated the whole event. With every sample we had, the chances of a good night’s sleep decreased further and further.
Although production has been lower this year than last, the mood in the hall was bullish and as we percolated from stall to stand, we were confronted with an impressive array of trinkets and machinery as well as beans and flowers.
There were fancy drip machines and espresso machines for the home or for industrial use. Then there were all kinds of agricultural tricks and gadgets. With green practices becoming more and more important, it was good to see a focus on this – including fully biodegradable furniture and bags made from recycled coffee sacks.
Although the big players were certainly present in the shape of Juan Valdez and OMA, alongside the likes of Café Amor Perfecto, there were shedloads of smaller producers alongside them. Small family farms were rubbing shoulders with much bigger operations, and the spirit was one of cooperation rather than competition.
Colombia is of course world-famous for the quality of its coffee, and there was plenty of representation from the regions. From the Caribbean to the high mountains of Nariño, the vast majority of the country produces top-class coffee, with differing styles and tastes.
My pick among them was probably the Quindio cluster. There were some pretty bitter natural coffees as well as smoother blends from other farms. We chatted to the co-owner of 1510 farm, Todd from Atlanta, Georgia. He told us that although there were a few bureaucratic hurdles to clear, producing coffee in Colombia for the American market was in general a simple enough process. And the coffee? Sweet, not so bitter and packed with flavor.
Specialty coffees could be Colombia’s next big opportunity — steering away from big production and focusing on niche products catering to a specialised market sector. It’s certainly true that there are more options than simply the big two of Juan Valdez and OMA as well as Starbucks and Tostao.