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Colombian Coffee: Outstanding Growth In The World Barista Championship

Colombian Coffee

Colombian Coffee

Colombian Coffee: The World Barista Championship serves as a platform to showcase some of the world’s most intriguing and unique coffees. In recent years, there has been a notable increase in competitors incorporating “forgotten” Arabica varieties or even different coffee species into their routines.

A discernible trend emerges when analyzing these coffees – many originate from Colombia. While Colombia has long been renowned for its high-quality coffee, a growing number of Colombian farmers are now venturing into the cultivation of rarer and lesser-known varieties and species, which have found their way into the routines of numerous WBC competitors.

Furthermore, many of the renowned geshas featured in recent WBC competitions were cultivated in Colombia. This begs the question: Why have Colombian coffees surged in popularity in competitions, and is this trend poised to continue?

To gain insights into this phenomenon, I spoke with Elias Bayter from Forest Coffee, Maria Alejandra Escobar Huertas from Café Granja La Esperanza, and Daniele Ricci, the runner-up in the 2023 World Barista Championship. Read on to discover their perspectives.

Varieties of coffee cultivated in Colombia

Colombia, according to the International Coffee Organization, stands as the world’s third-largest coffee producer and is distinguished as the largest producer of arabica beans. An estimated 550,000 small farming families are involved in coffee cultivation across 17 diverse regions of the country.

Renowned for consistently yielding high-quality arabica varieties, Colombia benefits from optimal conditions for coffee growth, including ideal temperatures, high altitudes, ample water access, and nutrient-rich volcanic soil.

Common arabica varieties cultivated in Colombia encompass:

Beyond cultivating renowned varieties, an increasing number of Colombian coffee growers have embraced experimental processing methods to enhance sensory profiles, contributing to the continuous improvement of Colombia’s coffee offerings.

Exploring the Surge in Colombian coffee Usage at the WBC

At esteemed gatherings like the World Barista Championship (WBC), coffee aficionados showcase some of the most exquisite and highly-rated Arabica varieties, celebrated for their unique and coveted flavor profiles. However, in recent years, there has been a noticeable uptick in competitors opting for Colombian coffees in their routines.

Elias Bayter, co-owner of El Vergel Estates in Tolima, Colombia, and managing partner and director of processing at Forest Coffee – a Colombian specialty coffee exporter, sheds light on this trend. He attributes the increasing utilization of Colombian coffees by WBC competitors to the significant advancements in the country’s approach to processing methods. Additionally, he highlights the rich diversity in terms of coffee varieties, climates, and topographies present in Colombia, factors that solidify its position as one of the foremost producers of quality coffee on a global scale.

Colombian coffee’s presence on the WBC Stage

In recent editions of the World Barista Championship (WBC), Colombian coffees have increasingly graced the spotlight, featuring prominently in the routines of notable competitors:

Italian barista Daniele Ricci secured second place in the 2023 WBC, employing a blend of Gesha and Caturra sourced from Finca Milan. Australian competitor Jack Simpson, who clinched third place in the 2023 WBC, showcased Ombligon – a lesser-known Arabica variety from Finca El Diviso. Isaiah Cheese, the reigning US Barista Champion, showcased Pink Bourbon sourced from Finca Bella Vista in his routine. In the 2022 edition, world champion barista Anthony Douglas highlighted Sidra from Finca El Diviso.

Diego Campos, the first Colombian to win the WBC in 2021, showcased Coffeea eugenioides – an obscure coffee species from Finca Inmaculada, acclaimed as the new darling of specialty coffee. Additionally, Colombian eugenioids were utilized by several competitors in the 2021 WBC, including runner-up Andrea Allen and Australian contender Hugh Kelly, who secured third place.

Maria Alejandra Escobar Huertas, the marketing director at Café Granja La Esperanza – a prominent Colombian coffee farm, shares similar insights. She underscores the role of innovative post-harvest processing techniques alongside the introduction of new coffee varieties in bolstering the popularity of Colombian coffees among WBC competitors.

The current landscape of popular Colombian coffee varieties

While Colombia has long been esteemed for cultivating renowned varieties like Castillo, Typica, Bourbon, and Caturra, an increasing number of exclusive and premium coffees have recently surfaced in the country. Alongside the rising cultivation of Gesha – a trend gaining momentum in Colombia, there exists a spectrum of other rare varieties and species cultivated within Colombian borders:

“Some Colombian producers have begun by introducing Gesha and Pink Bourbon as novel varieties on their estates,” notes Elias. “Additionally, there are numerous instances of natural mutations, swiftly evolving into promising varieties due to their exceptional qualities.”

Daniele Ricci, a barista at MAME Coffee in Zurich, Switzerland, attests to the exceptional quality standards of Colombian coffees. “I’ve sampled various Colombian varieties, and the consistency in quality is astounding. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing Pink Bourbon, Sidra, Mokka, Sudan Rume, and of course, Gesha and Caturra – the latter two being integral components of my 2023 WBC routine.”

Renowned coffee Estates

Colombia boasts some of the most renowned specialty coffee farms globally, alongside its exceptional coffee varieties and pioneering processing techniques. Many World Barista Championship (WBC) participants have sourced coffees from these estates, thereby contributing to their esteemed reputation. “La Palma y El Tucán secured victory in the 2019 WBC, followed by Finca Las Nubes in 2021 and El Diviso in 2022,” Daniele recounts. “Furthermore, I’ve utilized coffees from Café Granja La Esperanza in three national competitions, and I must say, their coffees are truly exceptional.”

Elias attributes the growing recognition of Colombian coffee producers in the international specialty coffee sphere to their relentless dedication and tireless efforts. Colombian Coffee: “These farms have earned their acclaim by steadfastly focusing on cultivating high-quality coffees, employing innovative processing methods, and exploring new varietals,” he elucidates. “While it demands immense dedication, competitions serve as a vital platform for these farmers to showcase the fruits of their labor.”

Continuing the trend

With Colombia’s specialty coffee sector experiencing rapid innovation, it’s likely that the trend of using Colombian coffees in the WBC will persist. Daniele remarks, “Colombia produces exceptional coffee, even without resorting to experimental processing techniques. However, the emergence of new methods influences competitors, akin to any rule changes made during the competition year. Additionally, it encourages producers to invest in new harvesting and processing practices.”

Elias echoes this sentiment, suggesting, “A forthcoming trend that may gain traction is farms developing their own unique varieties by selectively planting seeds from the same tree across five generations, resulting in natural mutations exclusive to the farm. Numerous Colombian producers have been pioneering innovative processing methods, from small-scale to large-scale operations. This provides an advantage to WBC competitors utilizing these coffees.”

As Colombia continues to garner attention, innovative industry events, such as PRF Colombia held on September 14th and 15th, 2023, at Plaza Mayor in Medellin, are emerging. Consequently, Colombia’s reputation as a premier producer of high-quality Arabica is poised for further enhancement.

Maria highlights that Colombia is venturing into cultivating more “boutique” coffees akin to those from Panama and El Salvador. This evolution solidifies Colombia’s status as a favored source for WBC competitors.

“Given the country’s rich coffee-producing heritage and diverse growing regions, we anticipate ongoing innovation and advancement,” she emphasizes.

Highlighting other countries at the WBC

While Colombia has been a standout at the WBC, Panama has also captivated competitors with its renowned Gesha, known for its intricate and nuanced flavor profiles. This popularity is attributed to their exceptional performance on the competition stage.

Yet, could we anticipate the emergence of other producing countries at the World Barista Championship? “Several Central and South American countries, like Guatemala and Ecuador, boast exceptional coffee quality,” notes Maria. Daniele adds, “Brazil is poised to showcase its prowess beyond quantity, while certain Asia-Pacific nations may gain prominence.”

Undoubtedly, Colombia’s diverse Arabica varieties and innovative processing methods position it as a perennial favorite at the WBC. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to recognize the potential of other Latin American countries and beyond to establish comparable reputations to Colombia.


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