Coffee from Manizales Colombia

Some of the best coffee in the world comes from a place where the highway signs give you a choice of heading to Bogota or Medellin.

This piece of coffee heaven is Manizales, Colombia. The main highway to neighboring Pereira is even called the coffee highway, the Careterra de Café. Coffee grows everywhere from lowlands to mountain tops. Coffee loves cloudy skies, rain and moderate temperatures making the daytime highs of 70 degrees and nighttime lows of 58 degrees perfect.

Along the Coffee Highway

Manizales was founded in the mid-19th century by 14 families who moved into this mountainous region specifically to grow coffee. They are now known as the founders or Fundadores. The local upscale mall is the Fundadores and a large local grocery store is La 14 in reference to the founders. Coffee culture is everywhere and Manizales is the home of the Colombian Coffee Growers Association. There are large coffee roasting companies everywhere but our focus is on the small family operations. We visited one such company recently. Dad came from Tolima, Colombia a generation ago and founded a tilladora. This word translates as thresher in Google but is the operation for removal of the husk on the green coffee bean before roasting. The first photo is the coffee fruit and the bean.

The next is coffee before and after removal of the husk.

Roasting coffee is an art. In our article about organic coffee roasting companies we listed types of roast and roasting temperatures.

Cinnamon Roast 195 °C (383 °F)
New England Roast 205 °C (401 °F)
American Roast 210 °C (410 °F)
City Roast 220 °C (428 °F)
Full City Roast 225 °C (437 °F)
Vienna Roast 230 °C (446 °F)
French Roast 240 °C (464 °F)
Italian Roast 245 °C (473 °F)
Spanish Roast 250 °C (482 °F)

But there is more to the process. The roaster also needs to listen and smell the coffee. An excellent roast requires the skills of an experienced roaster. In this photo Juan Fernando Hoyos Alzate tests the coffee during the process.

Once the coffee is ready it is released onto a wide surface to cool and mixing blades help in the process.

The end result is perhaps the best cup of coffee in the world.

Two Types of Coffee

Just like the rest of the coffee growing world, Colombia has had to deal with coffee leaf rust. The coffee growers in Colombia saw the plague coming and were well along towards a solution when the leaf rust hit.

When coffee leaf rust swept into Latin America the Colombian coffee research organization, Cenicafé started work on producing a Colombian leaf rust resistant coffee. This was in the 1980s. Today Colombian leaf rust resistant coffee comes in two varieties, Colombian and Castillo. The first is a cross between an old Colombian variety, Caturra, and a rust-resistant strain from Southeast Asia, the Timor hybrid. Castillo is an offshoot of further cross breeding of the first Colombian leaf rust resistant coffee strain. Replanting with Colombian leaf rust resistant coffee in Colombia has reduced the incidence of leaf rust from 40% to 5% from 2011 to 2013.

Nevertheless the two basic coffee varieties, Arabica and Caturra are still grown. Arabica thrives at higher altitudes where leaf rust is not an issue and Caturra is the modified lowland variety although the low lands around Manizales are about 5,000 feet!

Here are Caturra on the left and Arabica on the right.

And here is the view from the Hotel Careterro in Manizales toward the 15,000 foot high volcano, Nevada Ruiz.


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