Coffee's History in Colombia

Sparrows' green buyers Cody Gallagher and David Pohl in Colombia.

Colombia holds a strong reputation as one of the foremost coffee producing countries in the world. They’ve earned this reputation from the consistently excellent cup quality found in their coffees, a centralized network of support for small-scale farmers, and creative marketing strategies, like the one and only Juan Valdez.

Coffee first came to Colombia around 300 years ago, brought by the Jesuits. It’s said that Colombia’s coffee production saw its first boom when a Jesuit priest required his parishioners to plant coffee seeds in penance after their confessions. 

Coming into the 20th century, most coffee was grown by only a few large estates known as “haciendas”, which would soon change as the result of a global crisis. When the financial market crashed in 1929, coffee prices plummeted, sinking the operations of these major haciendas. Just 2 years before, Colombia’s government established the Federacion Naciónal de Cafeteros to help protect farmers’ rights and advance the production and quality of Colombia’s coffee. To save coffee production, the FNC purchased the land of the fallen haciendas and divided it up among many small-scale farmers to manage themselves – an integral development in the future of Colombia’s coffee industry.

Following this transformation in Colombia’s coffee industry, the FNC promoted their advanced and robust coffee production globally through intensive marketing campaigns. Along with their “100% Colombian Coffee” seal they developed, the FNC brought to life the fictional Juan Valdez character, to give a name and a face to their beloved crop.

The FNC has continued to implement new strategies to improve cup quality, production yield, and the livelihoods of coffee farmers since their formation. Now, they’re using coffee to support a historic peace process in Colombia. With the USAID, the FNC founded Coffee For Peace – an alliance of coffee farmers and market allies created to develop, facilitate and promote the trade of traceable coffees from historic violent zones in Colombia. In areas once torn apart by civil war and drug trade, members of coffee-farming communities receive farming assistance and inputs and help accessing global coffee markets to help them gain economic independence and move towards a peaceful future. Sparrows has collaborated with Coffee for Peace and purchased coffee from farmers in their program for the last 4 years. You can try a bag of our freshest harvest from Coffee For Peace farmers here.

We look forward to seeing Colombia’s coffee industry continue to grow and adapt, and to taste more and more of its incredible coffees.