Colombia is more than 50% natural forest. It has 55,000 species of flora and fauna. And according to the Financial Times, 10% of the world’s biodiversity can be found in the Colombian Amazon.
But these aren’t just impressive facts. They’re also part of the reason my country is able to produce great coffee. It shapes the flavour profiles. It even protects from pests.
Colombian coffee cherries. Credit: Caglar Kiran
The gateway to South America, Colombia’s shores are kissed by both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. What’s more, there’s also a large amount of inland water.
The Andes mountain range crosses from south to north along the country’s western side, making the country extremely mountainous. As a tropical country, there are no seasons in Colombia. The temperature depends only on the altitude: the higher it is, the colder it gets (and the more developed the coffee is, thanks to the later harvest).
This unique geography means the country has 314 types of ecosystems. This gives the coffee a wider variety of profiles – and means that there are plenty of birds, plants, and animals to help it grow well.
Colombia’s striking natural beauty. Credit: J. Sierra
Coffee in Colombia
Coffee is a significant source of income for the Colombian economy. In fact, according to The Economist, it’s is our fifth-largest foreign-exchange earner.
You’ll find it grown between 900 to almost 3,000 m.a.s.l. – and occasionally even outside of those ranges. In such a biodiverse country, it coexists with wild animals, livestock, and more crops, such as tropical fruits, sugar cane, cocoa and bananas.
And this diversity can help it to be grown organically, despite the risks of pests.
Coffee growing in Colombia. Credit: Caglar Kiran
Biodiversity: Natural Pest-Repellents
The coffee borer beetle, broca, has caused devastation to coffee crops around the world. It crawls into coffee cherries to lay its eggs. Then, once the eggs have hatched, the larvae consume the cherry and destroy the beans.
Yet if a farmer produces shade-grown coffee at around 21 degrees C – on average, 1,300 m.a.s.l. – then they can use the microscopic fungus Beauveria bassiana. It’s spread by the natural moisture of the forest, and it kills the insect by attacking its respiratory system. It’s a way to fight against the coffee borer beetle without endangering the health of consumers and farmers – or the ecosystem.
Similarly, aromatic plants are natural repellents for crickets and beetles, both of which love eating young coffee trees.
Coffee grows in the forest near Yalí. Credit: J. Sierra
More Benefits to Growing Coffee in Forests
On top of this, growing coffee in a forest can provide useful nutrients, like nitrogen, for the soil – and even provide additional sources of income, such as fruit.
In Yalí, Antioquia, in the northwest of Colombia, you’ll Finca San Gabriel. This farm lies at 1,200 m.a.s.l. and benefits from the forest. The coffee trees are protected by the shadows and high humidity. Plus, the temperature drops by around 16 degrees C at night, leading to sweeter cherries.
When it’s dry, you’ll see monkeys visit the lands to eat guama, a sweet tropical fruit whose trees host ants, termites, worms, millions of bugs, birds, and even small mammals. You can also spot some of over 1,900 species of birds and drink our Bird Friendly coffee.
Colombia has over 1,900 species of birds. Credit: Caglar Kiran
If you were to spend some quiet time in Colombia’s countryside, I would recommend that you first close your eyes. Listen to the millions of sounds that are produced by the wind, grass, trees, insects and birds. Smell the sweet aromas of the fruit and flowers, combined with the humid soil.
And when you can’t bear to not look at the beauty causing all these sounds and smells, open your eyes. You’ll see the array of colors that this amazing land has to offer.
Colombia’s biodiversity is staggering. And you can taste it in every cup of coffee.
Perfect Daily Grind
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