A single origin variety of coffee from new trader, The Colombian Coffee Company
“We specialise in single origin varieties and by that, I mean coffee from a single type of plant,” says Eduardo Florez, owner of The Colombian Coffee Company, the shiny new trader at Borough Market. “The coffee I am making is called Caturra meaning ‘small’, because the plant is not a big bush. It is a beautiful plant that we grow in Colombia.”
For people who are new to this coffee—which will be most of us—Eduardo suggests making it using the filter method. “I use about 18g of coffee and enough water to go through the filter in 30 seconds. It’s the perfect way to brew Caturra,” he says.
“I think the Caturra is a wonderful introduction to the coffees of Colombia and with a filter, you will really be able to taste the wonderful balance between acidity and sweetness. You will get a kind of sharp citrus taste followed by sweetness later on—the balance is perfect and the taste is very clean.”
A constant climate
Caturra can be produced all over Colombia because the country has a lot of very high terrain. “The mountains generate a lot of rain,” Eduardo explains. “Also the soil is very rich. When added to the fact that we have a constant climate, the conditions for producing this coffee just perfect. Over the last century or so, this has allowed the country to develop an amazing coffee production culture.”
All of the coffee at The Colombian Coffee Company comes from farms that are located high up in the mountains, where they produce arabica beans—one of the two main species of coffee bean. He explains that at these altitudes, coffee bushes produce less caffeine, which is actually what you want—something which might come as a surprise to many coffee lovers out there.
“The coffee bush actually produces caffeine as a protection against insects like mosquitoes. High in the mountains there are fewer insects, which means the bushes produce less caffeine,” Eduardo explains.
“This means beans from high altitudes have a much sweeter taste, because the caffeine itself has a bitter edge. In the right amounts, this edge is one of the things that makes coffee so wonderful, but if there is too much it swamps the other flavours and makes a really rough, bitter drink.”
Eduardo says that in the UK there is a misconception that people drink very strong coffee in Columbia. Actually the opposite is true; they like light, subtle and clean coffee. “That is what I am trying to show with the coffees we sell on this stall.”
For Eduardo it is about much more than just setting up a successful business. As a native Colombian, he understands the considerable challenges faced by the farmers in much of the country and wants to use his training and business acumen to help improve their lives.
Beyond Fair Trade
“It’s about economics. I understand the economics of coffee: I did a masters in finance here in London and I also have an MBA, so I am using those skills to go beyond Fair Trade. Most of the time families don’t even get two dollars for a pound of their beans,” Eduardo says with real feeling.
“We pay way above the premium. They pick the most beautiful coffee cherries for me, because they know they will get more for it. And that is amazing.”
“Also, because I am Colombian, I understand their issues. There are many parts of Colombia where due to the conflict, selling coffee from there is almost impossible. By having access to London, to the Market, we can improve things for them and have a real positive impact on their lives,” he continues.
A huge impact
“For this social enterprise to become sustainable we need access to the markets. I want people to be able to buy single origin varieties, from a Colombian, from Colombian farmers. That’s what makes a difference, and is going to make a huge impact in Colombia in the long term.”
Eduardo is one of Borough Market’s newer tenants and he is thoroughly enjoying the experience. “For me this is the best way of introducing British people to Colombian coffee. People ask lots of questions and have a real desire to know where the coffee is from. It is a great place to be,” he enthuses.
“I am very passionate about bringing this coffee to the wider world. The product these farmers produce is wonderful. But it is not easy for them to get it out to the wider world because they farm in remote and sometimes dangerous places.”
Farmers transport their coffee to the nearest buyer by donkey, on trips that can last several days. If there is too much for the donkey to carry, the farmers will carry the coffee sacks on their backs. “It is incredible and I have so much admiration for them,” says Eduardo. “I call them heroes, as well as farmers. I want to do the best I can to get their coffee out into the world.”