­​It’s Colombia, Not Columbia

­​It’s Colombia, Not Columbia

On October 11th, 2015 I departed for Bogota, Colombia. I knew that I would have an adventure in Colombia with several other women who work in the coffee industry, but what I didn’t know was that this trip will always hold a very special place in my heart and mind. Arriving in Bogota, I could almost smell the coffee in the air. The culture, the smells, the music, the language, and the people were all so vibrant, very much like Colombian coffee itself.

The purpose of my trip to Colombia was to tour women-owned coffee farms, visit Cenicafe (the Colombian National Coffee Research Center), visit Buencafe (a freeze-dried coffee factory), and attend the International Women’s Coffee Alliance Convention.

I sit on the Board of Directors for the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA: www.womenincoffee.org), and every two years, I get to travel to a coffee-producing country for our international convention. This was my third international conference as a member of the IWCA. I knew from the moment we decided on Colombia two years ago that this was going to something big.

The first half of the week was spent in the coffee growing region of Pereira, Colombia. The women-owned farms were the highlight. To be with a group of women, and a few men, from around the globe from all different parts of the coffee supply chain was an experience in itself. We met the women and families who own the farms and sipped their coffee in their homes at the farms.

On our visit to Cenicafe, I learned so much about the research behind the bean and was very impressed with the technology and support that the Colombian coffee farmers receive from the FNC (Colombian National Coffee Federation). From weather monitoring to pest controls, Colombia has some of the most sophisticated coffee practices in the world. Colombia has over 500,000 coffee growers and is the third-largest producer of coffee in the world. It is very evident as to why. The rich soils, the high altitude, the ideal climate, and programs that Colombian coffee farmers have access to are some of the best in the world.

Buencafe, the freeze-dried coffee factory, was interesting, as there is this false perception that freeze-dried coffee is processed with chemicals and is not made from high-quality coffee. Both of those things are incorrect. Buencafe uses high-quality Arabica beans and extreme hot and cold temperatures to make their freeze-dried coffee. Freeze-dried coffee is consumed around the world and even has a large presence in the US. If you have ever had a Starbucks VIA, you have had freeze-dried coffee.

The second half of the week was spent in the capital city of Bogota, where our convention was being held. The convention was alongside the FNC’s Expoespeciales, which draws over 10,000 people from all around the world, but the majorities are Colombian Coffee farmers. The IWCA’s program was focused on sustainability and gender equity. Sustainability and gender equity are extremely important in the coffee supply chain, and I believe that coffee will be the first 100% sustainably-sourced commodity. Our group of attendees represented 30 countries and packed the auditorium for the opening ceremony. It was quite empowering to be in a room full of coffee people from around the world, and most of them were women. The convention was educational and inspiring. The IWCA is on the brink of something big.

As a woman in the coffee industry, and being in a unique role as an office coffee service manager, it is important to me to share my knowledge, experiences, and passion for WHY coffee drinkers should care where their coffee comes from.

Do you know where your coffee came from?

-Shannon Craige, Carolina Vending