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The origin and history of Colombian coffee

The National Agricultural Cultural Park Panaca

Besides being a country with many beautiful destinations full of culture, Colombia is famous for being one of the countries with the greatest biodiversity in the world. With all that fauna and flora that characterises this territory.

In 1999, a group of Colombian businessmen founded the National Agricultural Cultural Park called Panaca. Panaca is located in themunicipality of Quimbaya, in the region of Quindío.

The park seeks to promote the interaction of man with nature and domestic zoology. It is a theme park, which offers shows, eight thematic stations and more than 4500 domestic animals, The park aims for visitors to learn about the main activities of the agricultural sector. Another objective of the park is to learn the traditions of the field. In the following link you can see the Virtual Tour of Panaca.

The origin of the coffee

Of the many varieties of plants that exist in Colombia, coffee is undoubtedly the most important. According to the botanical description, coffee is a plant native to East Africa, precisely from the territory that today corresponds to Ethiopia, where it grew wild.

Since the Ethiopian area is close to the Arabian Peninsula, during the Middle Ages coffee was cultivated in fertile areas of Arabia. For that reason today the most cultivated variety of coffee is known as Arabica.

Eje Cafetero view
Photo credit: Luis Eduardo Gonzalez Gomez

The history of Colombian coffee

In order to understand how important is coffee to Colombian people, you should know the history of coffee which is closely linked to the territorial and social history of the country. The coffee plant came to this territory during colonial times. The arrival of coffee was very timely for the inhabitants of Colombia. The arrival of coffee would allow them to diversify their sources of income in the long term. At that time, the Colombian economy was going through the decline of gold mining, which had been the predominant economic activity until then.

Colombian coffee in 19th Century

With the cultivation of coffee in the mid-nineteenth century, the Colonization of Antioquia took place, especially in the south of Antioquia. Many humble families were looking for possibilities of access to the land through the cultivation of coffee.

Over the years, the Colombian economy contributed with thousands of hectares of new cultivated land. Coffee became a great export industry. Coffee offered a new possibility of capital formation, which later drifted into commerce and industry. Thus, coffee production became, in the last decades of the 19th century, the basis of the Colombian economy.

Coffee trees in Eje Cafetero
Photo credit: Luis Eduardo Gonzalez Gomez

National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia

In 1927, Colombian coffee growers came together to create an organization that would represent them nationally and internationally. This organization would ensure their well-being and the improvement of their quality of life. Thus arose the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia. Today the federation is one of the largest rural organizations in the world. The federation is a non-profit entity. and does not contemplate any link with any political party.

In 1959, the National Federation of Coffee Growers commissioned the creation of a character to identify Colombian coffee, to represent the thousands of Colombian coffee growers and their families. This character is Juan Valdez. Juan Valdez has become an advertising and recognition icon. Very few agricultural producers have promoted and developed brand names that have achieved similar levels of diffusion and recognition.

The coffee regions

Currently in Colombia, coffee cultivation is carried out in almost all regions. However, this cultivation has had a fundamental importance in the area of the departments of Antioquia. Coffee cultivation is especially important in the coffee region (Quindío, Caldas and Risaralda).

Climate and geography are very important to coffee growing. The coffee plant grows in an environment where the average temperature is between 15ºc and 25ºc. In addition to the temperature, enough sunlight (an average of five hours a day), air humidity, and light winds are needed for growing coffee. Very mild and a good amount of rain, with regular rainfall during different months of the year.

Photo credit: Luis Eduardo Gonzalez Gomez


In 2011, Unesco inscribed the coffee cultural landscape on the world heritage list. This recognition commits the Colombian state, the international, national and local community to its protection. It is also an opportunity for its inhabitants and visitors to get to know the landscape and participate in its preservation. To see and understand a little more the magical landscape of the Eje Cafetero, the Colombian Government made several advertising campaigns. Click on the following links to see that advertising campaigns videos.

Eje Cafetero Government Campaign I

Eje Cafetero Government Campaign II 

If you are hungry for more global flavours, be sure to check out our gastronomic experiences page for additional recipes and culinary inspiration.

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