Among many coffee professionals, Colombian coffee has a reputation for its flavour and body. It has a strong presence in the international coffee sector, and has been popular around the world for decades.
We’ve been bringing high-quality Colombian coffees to our roaster partners for years through our in-country partner, Condor Specialty – a specialty coffee exporter based in Bogotá. We also source Colombian coffee from a number of regions, and offer a range of varieties, processes, and more.
However, it’s no secret in the industry that there have been supply issues for Colombian coffee of late. Prices have increased significantly, and we understand that cost is of course a factor when you’re sourcing delicious coffee for blends.
So, for those roasters who have historically used Colombian coffee as a component of their blend to give it a creaminess or sweetness, what are the alternatives? What can you do in the face of supply issues?
Read on to find out.
The situation in the Colombian coffee sector
Before we look at alternatives to Colombian coffee, let’s try to understand why these might be necessary.
The Colombian coffee sector has faced a number of challenges over the past two years. Firstly, as with coffee production and trade more widely, Covid-19 meant no shortage of delays at ports and a general slowdown across the sector. These issues were prominent throughout 2020 and 2021, and knock-on effects have been visible through 2022 so far, too.
Furthermore, in late 2021, Colombia saw a period of extended civil unrest in response to a number of legislative reforms proposed by the government. This meant blockades in many cases, which summarily meant exports were held up, causing widespread shipping and logistics issues – making it difficult for Colombian coffee to reach ports at all.
This, combined with heavy rains in Colombia throughout the second half of 2021 and the fact that shipping prices have skyrocketed internationally, has had two major outcomes. Firstly, there is less Colombian coffee on the market than usual, and secondly, the Colombian coffee that is available is much more expensive than it has been previously.
In essence, these existing price increases (largely driven by logistics issues affecting both Colombia specifically and the wider coffee sector) have been compounded by supply issues. This means that sourcing Colombian coffee is now a very difficult prospect for many coffee roasters.
Sourcing alternatives to Colombian coffee
So, for many roasters who use Colombian coffees as components in their blends, the next step is simple: switching from Colombian blenders to coffees from other origins while price and availability issues persist.
While getting it right can be difficult, this does give roasters an opportunity to experiment with new origins and tweak their blends.
To replace Colombian blenders, we suggest you start by looking for coffees that have good balance, a medium body, and some sweetness.
To start with, coffees from Peru are often known for their rich chocolatey notes and lactic acidity. These qualities, plus a good body, mean they can serve as a great foundation for a delicious blend.
In particular, we have our Peru Café Solidario Jaen in stock at the minute, from the Solidario Project. This 85.75 point washed coffee has notes of apricot, brown sugar, and hazelnut. In particular, we find that the nut and brown sugar notes work well to replace similar flavour characteristics often associated with Colombian coffee, and that it works well as part of a darker roasted blend.
Another good option is our Honduras Copán Regional Blend Organic. Honduran coffee is generally known for having notes of caramel, chocolate, berries, and stone fruit.
This particular coffee has good, round base notes of chocolate and hazelnut, without the citric and malic acidity typical of many Colombian coffees. With a cup score of 83.5, it is a good, more affordable alternative to Colombian base coffees in blends.
Some other alternatives
Looking beyond Latin America, there are another couple of options we would suggest for roasters looking to replace their Colombian blender coffees. In some cases, coffee from Papua New Guinea (PNG) can actually be surprisingly similar; it’s usually washed, with a bold, sweet taste and medium body and acidity.
In the highlands of PNG, coffee is shade-grown and often carried to market on foot along roads that wind through dense forest. In particular, the coffee we’re offering from the Ti Aura Womens Coffee Group has notes of blackcurrant, dark chocolate, and roasted hazelnut.
This washed coffee scored above 86 points, and comes from a group of female coffee growers. This is especially important in PNG, where women in the coffee industry typically earn just one-third what their male counterparts do.
If you’re looking for an African coffee to replace your Colombian blenders, Burundi might not be the first origin that comes to mind. However, Burundian coffee often has a clean, bright flavour, rich body, and sweet berry flavour notes.
The latest Burundi coffee we have at Condesa is our Burundi Nyamugari 15+ Fully Washed. This Red Bourbon has been a firm favourite among Australian roasters, partially thanks to its cup score of 86.25, and works well as a blender.
Although price and supply issues are proving to be challenging for many roasters around the world, there are still plenty of good options when looking to replace Colombian coffee in blends.
Furthermore, by looking for alternatives and trying new origins, you can experiment – who knows, the next blend you put together might taste even better than the last.
Want some advice on which to choose? Get in touch with us here to learn more about what we have on offer.