Colombia-bound; Let's Find Some Good Coffee
I'm currently writing to you from an airplane that is Colombia bound!
Now, Colombia has an interesting reputation for coffee. It's probably the first country people think of when asked, "Where does coffee come from?" And while yes, Colombia has long been a producer of some of the best coffees in the world, it's important to note the difference between Colombian coffee you may see at grocery stores versus the really great stuff being produced today by progressive and highly dedicated producers (or farmers) that you can find among specialty coffee roasters.
As you may know, I was in Norway for the first four months of the year and it was there I was able to meet a producer who our company, Nordic Approach, has been working with
"When people think of Colombian coffee, they think of Don Jose with a sombrero riding a donkey with a bag of coffee on its back," says Colombian coffee producer Juan Saldarriaga. His body is leaned into the table as if he is sharing a secret with the table. It's April in Norway and the harsh winter has subdued to a mild chill. Locals are sprinkling the outside seating in the hip pub - a sure sign that winter is leaving. But for Saldarriaga this is anything but a mild chill - it's freezing. He wraps his arms across each other as he presses on.
"But that is the past. We, the new generation, are tired of that. We want to be something different."
Juan Saldarriaga is a stunning example of the future of Colombian coffee and it's perception. He respects where he came from, a long line of generations of coffee producers, but knows where he wants to go.
He traveled to Oslo to receive feedback on his coffees purchased from Nordic Approach - the green coffee importer/sourcer that works with producers like Saldriagga all over the world. He knows Morten, Founder of Nordic, won't hold back on any criticism of his coffees.
The following day - after an evening filled with a few beers and covering a whole slew of coffee topics on both ends, we get to cupping coffee.
Cupping is much like what wine tasting is for sommeliers. Buyers and roasters will score coffees based on factors such as body, acidity, structure, flavor, aroma and other items to make purchasing decisions. The value of the coffee is determined using the SCA scoring methodology. It also ultimately defines the value of the producer's work for that past harvest.
Morten, the founder of Nordic, is a bit of a wiz at this stuff. I remember the first time I met him in his home in Oslo with his lovely wife (a badass in her own nature as she has a background in wine) and two incredibly adorable children. He showed me his homemade beers and after tasting them I just said a loud, "Wow." Then without missing a beat he said, "You should see what I can do with coffee." Any way, this guy can take a tiny slurp of a coffee and determine any processing flaws, plant mutations, how well a coffee a hold up in the long run. When your cupping with Morten it's education and entertainment all in one.
And so when a producer commits to flying to Norway to get feedback you know they are serious. And when they are receiving that feedback from Morten, you know they are looking for one thing; to constantly improve.
Juan that day had put forth some Colombians I have never tasted before that blew my mind (not that I am experienced in cupping Colombians). But the point was is that I loved them. Heck - our whole team was obsessed with them. They were natural processed Colombians that while were bold in their fruit flavors it was still a clean cup of coffee. I could drink that stuff all day. But there was also the classic Colombian coffees that we have grown to love full of nuts and caramels.
So what do producers like Saldriagga exactly do to develop such mouthwatering coffees? And how are they changing things that have long been the norm?
Well, we are about to find out.
See you in Bogotá ☕️
The Coffee Nomad