The Nariño coffee is one of the best known, acclaimed and desired in the world. It is common that the name of our department is printed on bags of coffee that are sold in coffee shops in America, Europe, Oceania and East Asia. It is a coffee with unique characteristics that appeals by its softness, sweet notes and an exquisite acidity. For this reason, in February 2011 the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce issued the Resolution No. 06093, by means of which the designation of origin of Nariño coffee is protected.

Although other coffee regions of Colombia also have it, in Nariño the importance of this condition has not been fully understood. We can mention some products with denomination of origin worldwide such as Peruvian pisco, tequila produced in Jalisco state, champagne from the northeast of France, gouda cheese from North Holland, among others. In the same way, in Colombia, products such as the bocadillo veleño, the roses and carnations, the Caquetá and Paipa cheeses, the Sandoná and Aguadas hats, also have a designation of origin.

There fore, the designation of origin is a great opportunity to consolidate Nariño coffee locally, nationally and internationally.

As a strategy to improve the income of small producers it is necessary that they know their own coffee, for that, more tasting laboratories are essential that help to maintain the quality and improve the production of coffee. Photo: Manuel Noguera Salas.

What Makes the Nariño Coffee Unique?

The following are the main reasons: geographical position, rugged geography, the volcanic origin of soils and the coffee growers care. The proximity of Nariño with the equatorial line determines that tall coffee is produced, since the solar radiation is 1.665 hours on average during the year.

While in other regions coffee is produced up to 1,800 meters above sea level, in Nariño it is up to 2,300 meters above sea level. In addition, in Nariño three air streams converge: Pacific, Andean and Amazonian.

This makes the physiological conditions of the plant different from the rest of the country and the planet. In most coffee zones, 32 weeks pass between the blossoming and the fruit of the coffee tree, while in Nariño this happens between 35 to 36 weeks, which means that the grain ripens more slowly —it stays longer in the tree— and develops much better its physiological part which means a greater concentration of sugars.

On the other hand, the trade winds from the south, which reach mid-year, when the coffee harvest is at its peak, are the key in the coffee drying stage. In other coffee growing regions, rapid drying in greenhouses is preferred, but high temperatures can break the cell wall and cause the internal contents of the cell drop out and change the biochem biochemical composition of the coffee. In Nariño, the method of slow drying is chosen by taking advantage of the air currents. The process lasts more days, but the quality of the coffee is assured.

The foregoing is also related to geographic features. The heat that during the day is concentrated in the canyons that make up the Nariño mountains, rises in the form of hot air at night and acts as a kind of blanket that protects the coffee plantations from the cold of the high mountain, thus allowing the production of high quality coffee. Another factor that makes the Nariño coffee different is its soils of volcanic origin: the northern zone is around the Doña Juana volcano, while the coffee in the western zone grows on the slopes of the Galeras volcano.

Finally, there is the special care of the Nariño peasants in the production of artisanal coffee. The department has 41 coffee municipalities, in which there are 39,703 coffee growers. More than 90% of them work in smallholdings, that is, lands where they grow between one and three hectares of coffee. That is why they know and take care of coffee trees with special dedication.

The definitive leap in the positioning of Nariño coffee should be given by all the actors of the coffee production cycle, so that the Nariño peasants, who make their greatest effort, see in their income to be highlighted in the market by producing the best soft coffee in the world.