Colombia

Presenting and Interpreting Culture / Spotlights

Coffee

From Seed to a Good Cup of Coffee

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By Sandra Marcela Durán Calderón

For this last step of the beneficio, the beans are put out to dry in the sun. The coffee is spread across large drawers on wheels, called heldas, and stirred continuously until they are thoroughly air dried and the beans take on a light green color. Depending on the weather, this process can take two or three days.

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The dried bean is called parchment coffee (café pergamino). It is stored in fique sacks that are transported by mule or Willys jeep to the threshing mills. This process concludes the involvement of the coffee grower.

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The other important means of transport in the region is the yipao. The term, coined by country dwellers for the old, North American Willys Jeep, represents a mode of transport and a symbol that identifies the popular culture of the coffee-growing region, an essential element in the economy and development of the area. The yipao travels the rural roads laden with crops—especially coffee—appliances, or people, providing greater efficiency of transport than the muleskinners and their animals were able to achieve. The term yipao is also used by farmers as a measure of quantity for their products, as in a yipao of coffee or a yipao of plantains.

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After the beans are delivered in bulk, they undergo further specialized processing including threshing and roasting. Threshing removes the parchment and any remaining impurities from the bean. Afterwards, the beans are sorted according to quality, shape, and size for storage and eventual export. At this stage the coffee bean is still light green in color. The beans are then roasted by exposing them to temperatures between 390 and 420º F for three to twenty minutes depending on the desired roast. The quality of dark roasts is generally more consistent. It is thinner in body with less fiber and a caramel-like flavor. The lighter roasts have more caffeine, which makes them slightly bitter with a stronger aroma. 

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Finally, the beans are ground, a key step in producing high quality coffee. Ground coffee releases the flavor and aroma of the bean during the brewing process. Freshly brewed coffee tastes best and should never be reheated or boiled to achieve a good cup of Colombian coffee, recognized for its delicate aroma, full body, and subtle flavor.

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The development of coffee cultivation and production in Colombia has created a vibrant community with its own robust culture and a vigorous sense of identity.

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Coffee Production