Colombian Coffee Triangle

There are many excellent coffees in the world but the region where one can find universally excellent coffee in the greatest quantities is in the West of Colombia in the Paisa region of largely rural Colombia. This region is the coffee triangle but is also called the coffee growing axis (Eje Cafetero in Spanish). The region produces the majority of Colombia’s coffee and includes the departments of Caldas, Quindío, and Risaralda as well as the Northern regions of the Cauca Valley and Tolima. The main cities in this area are Manizales, Armenia, Pereira, and Ibagué.

Commercial Coffee Production in Colombia

Coffee production in Colombia was commercialized at the beginning of the 19th century with earliest coffee growing in the regions around the original Spanish missions. It was in the mid-19th century that the now-famous fourteen families traveled to the series of mountain ridges where Manizales is located today and began growing coffee in what became the heart of Colombian coffee production, the department of Caldas. Today the dominant departments for coffee production include Antioquia, Caldas, Cundinamarca, Huila, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Quindío, Risaralda, Tolima, and Valle del Cauca. Of these regions the greatest producers are still Caldas, Risaralda, Quindío and Tolima.

Colombian Coffee
View from the Coffee Highway Near Chinchina, Colombia

Why Does the Coffee Triangle Grow Great Coffee?

In the Colombian coffee triangle they only grow high quality Arabica coffee. Geographically this region is the Andean rainforest with temperatures ranging from 8 to 24 degrees Celsius. Rainfall is plentiful and the soil is rich and volcanic with the region lies just west of Colombia’s Northern Volcanic Front where the still-active volcano Nevada del Ruiz continually spews ash in a plume from its summit. Additionally, this region has not gone to overly mechanized coffee farming. This is partly because of the mountainous terrain but also because they simply produce better coffee with their grain by grain approach. The Juan Valdez character used in advertising Colombian coffee represents a Paisa coffee farmer from this region.

Coffee Culture Landscape World Heritage Site

This unique region was designated a world heritage site by the United Nations in 2011 which includes 18 urban areas and 6 sites within the coffee triangle. The specific areas were chosen as representative of different types of traditional coffee growing and culture. These include Riosucio, Pereira, Salamina, Calarcá and Armenia as well as smaller towns and coffee farms throughout rural, mountainous areas. As a result of this added attention to the region theme parks have been developed such as the Colombian National Coffee Park in Quindío as well as the Museum of Culture Coffee where various processes are demonstrated. These facilities also demonstrate aspects of traditional culture such as folk dances and celebrations.

Nevada Ruiz
Nevada del Ruiz from Manizales

Visiting the Colombian Coffee Triangle

For a foreigner who wants to visit the Colombian Coffee Triangle the best cities for setting up a “base camp” are Manizales followed by Pereira. Manizales can be reached by regional flights from Bogota as can Pereira and Pereira also has once a day evening flights from Panama. Manizales is a smaller city with a 400,000 population and our first choice for a visit. An ideal hotel with a spectacular view of the mountains and Nevada del Ruiz is the Caretero on Avenida Santander. Be aware that in neither Manizales nor Pereira or throughout the coffee triangle English is not commonly spoken and rarely understood so brush up on your Spanish or bring a pocket dictionary.

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