Known for its rich history, stunning landscapes and exceptional national park, Nariño is located in the southwest of Colombia, just above the equator and on the border with Ecuador. The region is strikingly mountainous and boasts no fewer than five volcanoes: Chiles (4,718 metres), Cumbal (4,764 metres), Azufral (4,070 metres), Doña Juana (4,250 metres) and Galeras (4,276 metres). These volcanoes greatly benefit the quality of soil, as volcanic compounds that have been produced over long periods offer much-needed nutrients. The mountainous region also has excellent conditions both in terms of humidity and temperature to keep coffee in parchment for ongoing export shipments, preventing early signs of ageing.
Nariño initially became famous during Colombia’s independence in the early 1800s, as one of the few states in Colombia that sided heavily with the crown instead of the independence armies. Nearby Pasto was an important colonial town and was at the centre of commerce between Bogotá and Quito. Residents had every reason to side with peace and stability, not the change of the status quo that Simon Bolivar promoted.
Producers in this region, whose farms are often located in remote areas, have traditionally found it difficult to break into markets for higher quality coffee. The game-changer came in 2010 and 2012 when two growers from the region of Buesaco (also in northern Nariño) won the Colombian Cup of Excellence. This massive win made it apparent to many growers from the region that their coffee had the potential to be sold and commercialised as true specialty coffee. This marked the end of meagre premiums they were receiving for certification schemes.
Producers in this region are overwhelmingly small-holders, who manage their own self-sufficient wet-mills and patios (open or covered) for drying. Every family does their own harvesting – usually with the help of neighbours. After the red and ripe cherries are hand-picked, they are floated in cool clean water to remove any low-density beans, before being pulped. This is carried out by passing the cherry through a manual pulper at the family farm (usually located close to the main house). The waste from this process will be used later as a natural fertiliser for the coffee trees. Depending on the conditions fermentation can range between 12 up to 48 hours. Some producers will add several layers of wet parchment over a few days, which are thought to add complexity to the fermentation process and final cup profile. Due to the micro-climate and high altitude of the region, Nariño experiences lower relative humidity, more wind and more sunny days than other areas of the country. This means the region is blessed with some of the best drying conditions found in all of Colombia.
What does Colombian coffee taste like?
This is a super creamy Colombian coffee from La Uníon, Nariño department. This collective lot is beautifully balanced. With a round and full body, you can expect sweet caramel flavours, rich fruity notes of pomegranate and a bright lemon acidity. Delicious as pour over, but fabulous as an espresso too.