Colombia’s size alone certainly contributes to the different profiles that its 20 coffee-growing departments (out of a total 32) express in the cup, but even within growing regions there are plentiful variations due to the microclimates created by mountainous terrain, wind patterns, proximity to the Equator, and, of course, differences in varieties and processing techniques.
The country’s northern regions (e.g. Santa Marta and Santander) with their higher temperatures and lower altitudes, offer full-bodied coffees with less brightness and snap; the central “coffee belt” of Antioquia, Caldas, and Quindio among others, where the bulk of the country’s production lies, produce those easy-drinking “breakfast blend” types, with soft nuttiness and big sweetness but low acidity. The southwestern departments of Nariño, Cauca, and Huila tend to have higher altitude farms, which comes through in more complex acidity and heightened florality in the profiles.
To capitalize on this broad spectrum of flavors and to emphasize the diversity available to roasters and consumers from within a single country, the coffee growers’ association has begun to provide origin distinctions, and has developed aggressive marketing campaigns designed to boost the regions’ signals to buyers worldwide.
Huila’s profile is more toward toffee sweetness, lemon acidity, and smooth mouthfeel than the punchier fruit-forward lots of Cauca or Nariño.