Colombia is our most popular single origin "house" coffee for most of our wholesale customers, and for good reason. Colombian coffees can have all the vibrant, rich fruit flavors of specialty grade coffee, but without sacrificing approachability & drinkability.
We spent the better part of this year planning around bringing an updated & improved Colombia to our offerings, and are excited to introduce La Estrella del Ostro this fall!
Coffee in Colombia
Coffee first came to Colombia in the late 18th century by way of colonialism (the same way coffee was spread through most of the world outside of East Africa & Yemen). Colombia has been ideal for growing quality coffee on a large scale, owing both to it's size (almost twice the size of Texas) & large swaths of higher elevation, mountainous terrain; throughout the 1800's, coffee grew into a major economic engine & export crop.
In the 20th century, coffee cultivation became much more widespread, going from less than a thousand farms to over 150,000 over just three decades. In 1927, a joint effort of industry & national leaders formed the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (F.N.C. - in English, the National Federation of Coffee Growers), setting the stage for the modern growth of Colombian specialty coffee.
The best known work of the F.N.C. in the United States is Juan Valdez, a fictional Colombian coffee farmer character to promote Colombian coffee, but their work goes far beyond marketing. The F.N.C. sets a guaranteed purchase price for farmers to help insulate from variability global commodity pricing, provides technical assistance to coffee producers, and does significant research into coffee cultivation & genetics.
As a coffee roaster, one of the exciting parts about working with Colombian coffees is the unique harvest calendar. Most of Colombia has two coffee harvests, a "main" harvest that starts in October & November, and a "mitaca" (a second, smaller harvest, sometimes called a "fly crop") around May. Harvest timing also varies based on elevation, with lower elevations going into peak harvest faster, and coffee maturing slower in higher elevations. As a result, there's practically always something fresh available!
La Estrella del Ostro
Our current Colombia, La Estrella del Ostro, comes from La Plata, Huila, a mountainous region of Colombia that was first known for mining ("La Plata" refers to the silver mined there), but these days has a strong agriculture-based economy. Coffee is grown on a mostly small scale, with most farmers having no more than 6-7 acres of land. The name refers to a star that shines notably bright most nights above the highest mountain in the area
In area like this, rather than large estates where coffee is both grown and processed on the same site, small producers pick coffee cherry and deliver it to one larger wet mill. These mills will separate all the different lots - sometimes by the day the coffee cherry is delivered, sometimes by individual farm - and depulp, ferment, and dry the coffee. Once processed, lots are graded for quality & only specialty grade coffees become part of this lot.
In the cup, we taste a big, sweet caramel body, with some very pleasant, drinkable citrus accents. As it finishes, there's a gingery, cocoa aftertaste. It's the sort of coffee we'd be excited to drink every morning: lively, rich and sweet without being exotic.
Our sourcing partner runs a coffee growers education program, with teams of consultants & agronomists working side by side with growers in the region to maintain profitable farm operations, with a priority on quality and sustainability. Farmers strive to meet the specialty grade standard for a price premium; lots that score even higher gain additional premiums, with the most exquisite coffees being separated as single estate coffees, sometimes no more than two or three bags at a time.