· By Karine Lesage
Three distinct origins to discover for their coffee offer
To follow up on the last article published« On the bag - A question of terroir? », we want to introduce you to three unique origins Brazil, Colombia and Ethiopia that stand out for their coffee offer. The taste profile of a coffee is influenced by geographical and climatic variables, by the orientation given to the local development of coffee cultivation (varieties, elevation, size of farms, etc.) as well as by the know-how of the farmers. Here are three vignettes that allow you to grasp more concretely the implications of the terroir in these different countries of South America and Africa.e.
The industry in Brazil is overwhelmingly volume oriented with full sun plantations. It is thanks to the intensity of the radiation and the regular rains that this type of intensive cultivation without shade becomes profitable. Most parts of the country are flat or of modest elevation. The production of Arabica is carried out more particularly in the East of the country along the Atlantic coast, where mountain ranges reach more than 2500 meters. The regions of Cerrado Mineiro, Espirito Santo and Sul de Minas that surround them are among the most established.
For a long time, coffee growers treated a majority of the harvest by drying the cherries in the sun. The introduction in the 1990s of the Pulped Natural process, originally calledCereja Descascada(peeled cherry), participated in improving the quality of the batches. This technique involves removing only the skin from the cherries before drying them, which distinguishes it from honey-type methods. It is used to enhance sweetness, sometimes acidity, while maintaining the body of a natural coffee. Generally,by the cup, coffees from Brazil have low acidity, a developed body and sweet notes of chocolate, nuts, dried or candied fruit.
Despite the use of careful and conscientious methods (hand picking, controlled cherry processing, interesting varieties, cultivation at high altitudes), specialty coffee producers are struggling to shed Brazil's reputation, of which the production is mainly industrialized and the coffees are blended with other origins.
Coffee was introduced to several regions of Colombia at the beginning of the 18th century, but its production began to be significant only at the end of the 19th century. The creation of the Fédéracion Nacional de Cafetaleros de Colombia (FEDECAFE) in 1927 was decisive for the coffee industry in Colombia, as much for its development, its organization as its promotion. Producers who are members have access to agricultural development services such as technical assistance, training and other support programs. The coffee rust crisis, particularly in 2008, led FEDECAFE to promote more resistant varieties such as Castillo, which gradually became widespread. Furthermore, Colombia sought to stand out in the coffee industry and as a source by registering, in 2005, Café de Colombia as a protected geographical indication. Designated as the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia, thel’Eje Cafetero or the Coffee Triangle was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.
The Andes Cordillera that runs through the country generates rugged terrain and steep slopes favorable to coffee growing. Many of its peaks are volcanic, which helps form rich soil for agriculture. Coffee plantations are mainly located at 1500-1900 m.a.s.l. in slopes with a temperate climate. InColombia, coffee production is impacted by two meteorological phenomena– TheNiña (more precipitation, less sunshine) and El Niño (drier weather and more sunshine)– having epositive and negative effects depending on the region.
In parallel with intensive production in full sun, we are witnessing the establishment of agroforestry systems that are less productive and more oriented towards the quality and market of specialty coffee. It is difficult to attribute unique aromatic qualities to Colombian coffees as the production is varied. There are heavier and chocolate coffees as well as sweet and fruity batches. It is this broad spectrum of flavors that underpins its reputation as an origin.
Recognized as the birthplace of Arabica, Ethiopia is also the largest coffee producer in Africa. Word « coffee derives, moreover, from the name of the region – Kafa– where coffee trees have naturally populated the territory. The plurality of indigenous varieties that grow in Ethiopia has led the coffee industry to bring them together under the name Heirloom. There are three production systems, either in the natural state in forests, on small farms or in gardens as well as on large land for more intensive cultivation. Most of the coffee comes from small farms whose harvests are then grouped together to form batches. This is why, more often than not, the origin of Ethiopian beans is referred to as a cooperative or a washing station rather than a single producer.r.
Among the most celebrated regions is that of Harrar, one of the oldest where coffee growing is practiced. While some of the coffees produced there have a woody profile, others combine unusual notes, sometimes vinous and very fruity. Cherries are occasionally left on the tree to dry out, which imparts a sweet, fermented taste, but can also develop earthy andunclean may be less well received. The Yirgacheffe is also another sought-after region. It produces magnificent, very aromatic, tangy or floral washed coffees with a light body. It is the high elevation agriculture and rich soil of the Great Rift Valley running through Ethiopia that allow such complex profiles to develop. Along with the Sidamo region, the Ethiopian government protected these two appellations (Harrar and Yirgacheffe) in 2004.
Largely washed or natural, the coffees of this country present an astonishing variety of characteristics with notes of flowers (jasmine, black tea), spices (carcamone, bergamot), citrus fruits (lemon, orange zest) , tropical fruits (peach, mango) or wild fruits (strawberry, blueberry), etc. For many, it was through the coffees of Ethiopia that they discovered the range of flavors that coffee beans can have.
Research and writing by Chloé Pouliot
SourcesAnne Caron and Melody Denturck,Coffeegraphy.
Gloria Montenegro and Christina Chirouze,Coffeeology.
James Hoffman,The World Atlas of Coffee.