Nestled in the southwestern region of Colombia, lies the beautiful and fertile land of Cauca, pronounced as "KOW-ka." Home to some of the most exceptional coffee in the world, the Cauca region boasts an altitude that ranges from 1,200 to 2,200 meters above sea level. An interesting fact about Cauca coffee is that it is predominantly grown by smallholder farmers who cultivate their coffee on less than 5 hectares of land.
Coffee has been grown in the Cauca region for centuries, with its cultivation dating back to the early 19th century. The region's coffee production has been intimately linked to the Colombian coffee industry as a whole, as Colombia is the third-largest coffee producer in the world. Over the years, the Cauca region has earned a reputation for producing high-quality specialty coffee, thanks to its unique terroir and the dedication of local farmers to preserving traditional farming methods.
In the Cauca region, the majority of coffee is grown on small family farms, where traditional farming practices are still very much in use. These methods typically involve minimal use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, as well as a strong emphasis on shade-grown coffee. This not only helps to preserve the region's biodiversity but also contributes to the unique flavor profile of Cauca coffee. While there may be variations in processing methods from farm to farm, most coffee in the region is processed using the wet or washed method. In this process, the coffee cherries are depulped, and the beans are fermented in water for 12-48 hours, depending on the specific conditions. The beans are then washed and dried, either under the sun or in mechanical dryers. This method is known to produce clean and bright coffee flavors, which are characteristic of Colombian coffee.
Cauca coffee is renowned for its complex and nuanced flavor profile. Coffees from this region often display bright acidity, medium to full body, and a rich, fruity sweetness. The high altitude and unique terroir of the Cauca region contribute to the development of these distinct flavors. Some common tasting notes found in Cauca coffee include red fruit, citrus, floral, and hints of chocolate or caramel.
The Cauca region is home to numerous smallholder farmers who are dedicated to producing exceptional coffee. One such example is the Asociación de Productores de Café del Cauca (ASPROCAFE), a cooperative of over 100 farmers who work together to improve their coffee quality and promote sustainable farming practices. Another notable name in the region is Granja La Esperanza, a family-run farm that has gained international recognition for its award-winning specialty coffees.
The Cauca region of Colombia is a treasure trove of specialty coffee, with its unique combination of high altitude, fertile soil, and dedicated smallholder farmers. As more coffee enthusiasts discover the delightful flavors of Cauca coffee, it is sure to continue gaining recognition as one of the world's premier coffee-growing regions.