The Ultimate Guide to Colombia's Specialty Coffee
Coffee expert and educator Karen Attman takes us through the delicacies of Colombian specialty coffee
“What’s an American lady doing teaching Colombians about coffee?” That’s the first question coffee expert and educator Karen Attman asks her audiences at any talk, event or workshop. And a legitimate one, too, but with almost thirty years living in Latin America, of which ten in Bogotá, we’re convinced Karen has rightfully earned herself the nickname of “Coffee Lady”!
Hailing from Philadelphia, as it often happens Karen found herself in Colombia through random circumstances - in her case, marrying a Colombian man - and when they moved to Bogotá in 2012 she started writing her blog (and now go-to website for all things Colombian coffee), Flavors of Bogotá. Her writing career took her to collaborate with publications such as CNN, Eater, and Esquire that gradually nudged her towards the world of specialty coffee, which became her biggest passion and joy.
“Nowadays, specialty coffee brands are doing a huge service to the whole of Colombia, as they are there to help the smallest producers with fair wages and transparent business practices,” Karen explained on Semana, Colombia’s top publication.
Karen cites Azahar Coffee, who will give you a card that says exactly what the grower was paid, and Café Cultor who helps 10,000 farmers across the country improve their techniques and connect with buyers, as shining examples of a growing movement of ethically-minded brands, who want to make sure Colombians enjoy the best their country has to offer.
“40% of the coffee consumed in Colombia is imported and blended with the local one to lower the price for national consumption, resulting in lower quality. But the great thing about specialty coffee brands is that they work exclusively with 100% Colombian coffee and benefit the entire country, from grower to consumer.”
Brands such as Azahar, Colo, and Libertario are also constantly innovating with new coffee blends and varieties, like Bourbon & Geisha, which are more exotic in South America, thus contributing to keeping the industry fresh and dynamic.
An educator and teacher at heart, Karen started sharing her knowledge with the world through her Flavors of Bogota Specialty Coffee Experiences to teach foreigners and locals alike about specialty coffee and what it does for Colombian growers and others involved in the production chain. “If you want to get to know Colombia you have to understand how coffee has been affecting the lives of millions of Colombians for centuries,” Karen recommends.
With her local teams, Karen will take you through a journey of discovery that includes the history of coffee production, cupping, and brewing techniques, as well as tasting a whole world of flavors you might not realize existed, and better equip you to enjoy your future brews.
And while you wait to get to Colombia in person, indulge with Karen’s top picks of the best specialty coffee shops in Bogotá, and don’t forget to stock up on mugs, cups, and pots from our Featured Coffee Collection.
Café Cultor Coffee Roasters
Working hand in hand with 10,000 coffee growers from seven different regions of Colombia, CAFÉ CULTOR is a premium-quality specialty coffee that honors the Colombian coffee culture and its rituals, making this magical drink a lot more than just a part of your daily routine.
Taking care of the whole process from growing to refining, to roasting and brewing, each cup of Café Cultor encapsulates authentic and powerful stories that speak of ancestral traditions. Their regional hubs work closely with local growers in a bond of mutual trust, that generates social, economic, and environmental sustainability, allowing the brand to transmit the dreams and love that come in each gram of coffee.
With four coffee shops dotted around Bogotá, including their flagship store and lab in Quinta Camacho, you can rest assured you will be spoilt for choice, from traditional brews to more exotic products such as their coffee-flavored beer! Or else, head to their online shop for a selection of their best coffee blends and fun Café Cultor merchandise to spice up your morning brew.
With a focus on serving as much of Colombia’s best coffee to Colombians as possible, while keeping a firm eye on international export, Azahar Coffee is your go-to choice for the best quality blends this tropical paradise has to offer.
When not busy in one of the Bogotá locations, you’ll find the team at Azahar exploring down to the smallest Andean communities, to forge durable, fair, and economically sustainable relationships with producers, co-ops, and growers associations. The resulting brews are full of the stories of those who plow the soil, gather the fruit, roast the grains, and each brew represents the best Colombia has to offer: the loving work of its people.
Azahar’s roastery in Quindío and their beautifully-designed shops in Parque 93 and Nogal offer cozy sitting areas filled with plants and artisanal decor, and of course a huge variety of cold and hot brews, as well as pastries, cakes, and more.
@catacion_publica, Cl. 120a ##3A-47, Usaquen, Bogotá
Agricultural Engineer and Business Administrator Jaime Raúl Duque Londoño founded Catación Pública after fifteen years of experience working with the National Federation of Coffee Growers in the department of Quindío, Colombia.
Constantly looking to learn more and expand his knowledge, Jaime spent years traveling the expanses of Colombia’s coffee regions, refining his understanding of each minute aspect of the whole coffee chain, from growing to threshing to cupping, to roasting, to preparation, and finally exporting in the USA, Asia, and Europe.
The logical next step was for Jaime to start sharing this vast knowledge, which he did opening the Catación Pública workshop and lab in Usaquen, Bogotá. Here, coffee experts and amateurs alike can enjoy a wealth of courses, workshops, activities, and tasting to discover, explore and study coffee with the attention and devotion it deserves.
Colo Coffee Roasters
A more recent entry to the specialty coffee scene and already making a name for itself, Colo Coffee Roasters opened its doors in 2017. Their mission resounds loud and clear in each brew and each pack of coffee they sell: to serve better coffee to Colombians and support coffee growers by helping them increase the value of their crops and improve their processes to produce enhanced coffee blends.
The brand’s passion for coffee starts with four words: cultivation, harvest, roast, and preparation. The experienced teams at Colo work closely with growers to study the coffee plants’ genetics and growing specifics, before hand-selecting only the ripe cherries for harvesting.
The same artisanal technique applies to fermentation and drying of micro-batches that are then transported to their roastery in Usaquen, Bogotá, before being brewed in various ways, from espresso to French press to pour-overs. And the best piece of news yet? They ship directly to the USA & Canada!
Libertario Coffee Roasters
Libertario Coffee Roasters was born from the desire to invite coffee lovers around the world to discover the huge coffee ecosystems Colombia has to offer. Through different cup profiles, Libertario offers sensory experiences for all palates, resulting in aromas, fragrances, and flavors that reflect the wonderful diversity and complexity of Colombian coffees.
Keen to go a step further than simply offering the best cup of coffee to their customers, Libertario is making a conscious effort to build a better Colombia, promoting the environmental and social sustainability of the country, while creating inspirational spaces for aggregation in their coffee shops in Bogotá, Cartagena and Quinta Camacho.
Fully committed to the certified origins of their coffee, Libertario works directly with small farmers in several regions of Colombia, including Tolima, Huila, Cundinamarca, and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Further, 3% of their sales now goes to reforestation and preservation of nature in coffee farms, actively fighting climate change.
Karen Attman is a coffee expert and educator based in Bogotá, Colombia, and founder of the Latin American Coffee Academy, offering courses for industry professionals around the world who want to deepen their understanding of coffee in Latin America. Her highly acclaimed book Permission to Slurp, born to expose worldwide audiences to Colombian specialty coffee, was nominated for the category of Best Coffee Books by the Gourmand Awards in 2018.
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