Coffee Tasting: Andina Coffee; Premium Blend

A deep, intense, and yet smooth blend of high quality coffee beans from Colombia. Andina’s Blend earns its Premium billing, showing all the potential of one of coffee’s great nations.

A balance of intense flavour, caffeine kick and smooth easy drinking characterise this blend. Colombia can produce a wide variety of standards in coffee, and the care taken in the sourcing of high grade beans here delivers a robust but rounded cup, with all the classic coffee taste and plenty of depth to discover. Overall it’s very much an example of the quality I always look for in Colombian specialty coffees.

In More Depth

Origin: Colombia

Varietal: Blend of Castillo, Caturro and Colombia

Growing Altitude: 1,300 – 2,000 MASL

Process: Washed

Tasting Notes: Citrus, Chocolate, Caramel and Almond

The Coffee

Colombia is one of coffee’s big three exporting countries, along with Vietnam and Brazil, and as a nation is deeply associated with the bean. Indeed many people see coffee and Colombia as almost synonymous. This level of recognition comes with both benefits and drawbacks, the growth and export of coffee is a strong industry in Colombia, with over 800,000 metric tons leaving the nations shores in a single year. The highlands of the country provide some superb growing areas, and the climate can be ideal for the cultivation of excellent coffee. Yet oddly I am often deeply cautious when offered coffee from this great nation, over the years I have learned that such a large industry comes at a price. With such a huge volume of coffee produced in one place, there is a lot of variation in quality and ethics.

It’s a sad fact that some of the more intensive producers in Colombian coffee (as in any major industry) will sacrifice either or both of, quality of cup and the wellbeing of their workers, to increase profit margins. The resulting beans can produce a familiar and acceptable drink, sadly lacking depth and interest, but still viable for commercial coffee use, and so able to generate profits. Personally I think this sort practice both misses the great potential of a coffee growers paradise, and is unacceptable in its lacklustre ethics. But when it’s done right, when it’s grown with real care and given room to reach its potential, Colombian coffee still remains one of the defining examples of what I would term the classic European coffee house taste.

The coffee houses of Europe have had a love affair with South American coffees for a long time. With the right choice of variety and roast, their particular depth of flavour combines with a remarkably smooth drinking experience to create a real “long drink”. One that also still has the intensity to stand up to the milk heavy drinks we have come to favour nowadays. Colombia has had a well deserved reputation for exporting beans perfect for this style of coffee for a long, long time. This history of excellence and care is where Andina finds its inspiration, and that leads me to the coffee itself.

On first tasting I found an initial intensity or kick which is quite common in Colombian coffees. The mouthfeel is smooth and the coffee has a medium body to it, it’s a very pleasant balance. Flavour wise the initial earthiness is very intense, again a common trait in classic Colombian coffees, and sadly often one that can entirely dominate the experience. In this case the intensity settles down softly into a comfortable nuttiness, allowing a developing of rich chocolate depth, moving the coffee away from the danger zone of mediocrity that I have found in some offerings over the years. As it cools the coffee gradually shows a growing background note of citrus and the caramel aspect appears as a soft but sweet layer of flavour. This combination of familiar coffee taste to the European palate, and welcome caffeinated intensity, along with deeper layers of flavour demonstrates the best aspects of Colombian coffee for me. Overall I consider this to be one of the finest blends of Colombian beans I have tasted over the years and I would thoroughly recommend it to any lover of coffee. I am also going to look a little bit at why I think this coffee is so good. You could just read this far and go try it, but really I do recommend reading on, there is room to learn a little, or perhaps a lot.

Andina’s Premium Blend contains three varieties of coffee, Caturro, Castillo and Colombia. The term blend for those who may be wondering, means a coffee made up of two or more different bean crops, combined to produce a specific profile of flavours, in roasting. These three crops are all sourced from farms in the same department or region of Colombia, the north west part of Valle del Cauca in fact. This area is dominated by mountains and filled with numerous micro-climates (pockets of weather and regional aspects that differ from the “norm” in the area, incidentally very handy if you want to promote growth of a particular coffee variety), making it an excellent prospect for any coffee plantation, as long as you don’t mind a lot of hard work.

The twelve individual farms involved in the production of beans for this coffee are all “coffee smallholdings” (farms with an area of 5 hectares or less of cultivated land), this promotes the continued existence of small family farms, something I personally am always in favour of. The coffees are all grown with care and still handpicked, a time and labour intensive process that ensures excellent crop quality, and reduces the amount of wastage during the discarding of unripened beans later in processing. The picked cherries are processed through the traditional washed method, the skin and pulp washed away, then any remaining mucilage removed during around 18 hours of fermentation. Finally the coffee beans are sun dried on open beds for 4-5 days. This traditional method of preparing coffee for export does produce waste, but in this case that waste is biologically processed and becomes organic compost, again a time consuming and expensive process but one critical to the sustainability of coffee growing.

All this combines to produce beans which all score 85 or better in cupping. Normally I don’t make too much of a note about cupping scores, as it could be considered a bit geeky. But in this case it’s worth acknowledging the quality of the product, given the effort involved. For those who don’t know, cupping is a recognised taste testing process that is used throughout the coffee industry. I won’t go into all the how and why, that’s an article of its own, the short form is that any coffee scoring 80+ points in cupping is a specialty coffee. All three components of this blend therefore consistently rank well into the specialty bracket and can be considered to be of excellent quality.

There is something very heartwarming about the fact that the majority of this information is available through Andina itself, a passion for understanding the provenance of the product is for me a huge part of why it delivers so well on taste.

The Roaster

Andina uses a co-operative roaster based in the same region where the coffee is grown, the Cooperativa de Cafeteros del Valle de Cauca. Co-operative roasting is a practice whereby multiple producers can access centralised roasting facilities helping to control their costs and ensuring product consistency. This sort of community led approach to coffee production is often critical to allowing small farms to continue to earn their keep, without it smallholdings would likely fade away.

The Company

Andina Coffee is run by Maria Varela, a Colombian born coffee lover now based in Glasgow. The company is based on a real passion for product of her beloved homeland and includes a commitment to ensuring ethics along the way. The coffee producers involved are all part of social and economic programs in the region that allow for important measures ensuring fairness and supporting growers. This kind of link to grassroots practice changes lives and is part of what drives the specialty coffee industry’s big heart. It’s why I am always a promoter of sourcing your coffee with an eye to where it comes from and how it got to you.


Andina Coffee’s Website

About Bear Essentials CoffeeIf you have enjoyed this or any of my writing please check out my Homepage to find out more about me and my work. Follow the blog and if you feel you can, drop a donation to support this project. Thanks, – Bear

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