One of the most beloved products of our country is found in the Colombian Massif, on the slopes of the Laboyos Valley and its surroundings. It’s the coffee of Huila, a delicacy that today employs 74% of all farmers in the department for its production. Here, coffee of Colombian origin has found a fertile home in the mountains of Huila alongside yucca crops, fruit trees, sugarcane and bananas.
But what do we mean when we talk about coffee of Colombian origin? Well, a variety of unique flavors, nourished by the volcanic soil and the combined work of thousands of families in the area, render this coffee a unique, wholesome experience. Since Huila isn’t just the birthplace of the Magdalena River, but also produces some of the best coffees on Earth, we wouldn’t want you to miss the opportunity to taste it.
Thousands of hands and a shared knowledge: the secret behind flavor
What makes a certain coffee special goes beyond the richness of the land in which it’s grown: it lies too in the hands that carefully craft its production. The coffee growers of Huila undertake this process with great care and upholding traditions. For them, coffee is much more than a mere crop: it’s an expression of farmer identity and vital commitments.
Thousands of stories are told around Opita coffee. Around the mid-20th century, cultivation of it was mostly carried out by farming families in plots ranging between 1 and 2 hectares. Knowledge surrounding coffee was passed down as a family heirloom, a legacy that was learned at home through artisanal techniques and concepts. Although tradition remains, new developments have come to build upon it.
Huila’s coffee industry has developed unique coffee-growing techniques, which are shared through cooperatives and associations. Their effort transcends the mere cultivation of the bean, as there are at least 83,000 coffee-producing families committed to environmentally sustainable production and the improvement of living conditions of the coffee-growing population. An example of this is the commitment of associations such as Amurcafé in their effort to heighten the recognition of the role of female coffee growers and to achieve greater gender equality.
A high-altitude coffee for a cheerful, special flavor
Huila’s coffee crops are truly special: they grow bathed by waters that feed the Magdalena, Colombia’s most important river. On the slopes of the Andean massif grow different aromatic crops with distinct flavors, such as cocoa, various fruits and sugarcane. These plants grow near the coffee plantations, leaving an incomparable trace: they adorn the beans with special nuances and notes.
In Huila, coffee is grown on farms mostly between 1,200 and 1,800 meters above sea level. Although the majority of these are “high-altitude coffees” (between 1,700 and 2,000 meters), the variety of soils and their proximity to different crops and minerals allow for incredible notes to be achieved. Examples of this are Pitalito, Acevedo, Suaza, Garzón and La Plata, municipalities where the flavor is most cultivated. There, we find Arabic varieties such as Típica, Borbón, Tabí, Caturra and Castillo, as well as others that prove harder to come across, such as Geisha and Maragogype.
It’s no coincidence that Huila is home to some of the best specialty and soft coffees in the world. One of the most talked-about brands in this regard is SOCA, winner of a 2020 Monde Selection award for its exquisite coffee. According to the jury, SOCA is an ideal product, its rich sensory characteristics, in addition to its excellent ingredients and production process, were decisive for the Opita brand to take home the gold.
By 2021, 12 producers from Huila were finalists for the Cup of Excellence, one of the most prestigious international competitions that award coffee quality. Beyond these recognitions, Huila coffee is a Colombian wonder: Diego Campos, our very own 2021 World Barista Champion, cultivates one of the most delicate and soft cups in his farm, El Diamante, near La Plata.
Another connoisseur of the myriad benefits Huila grants is none other than Hugh Jackman. The world-famous Australian actor chose the wonders of this volcanic and mineral-rich land to produce his very own coffee brand, Laughing Man Coffee.
Whether in plain sunlight or flirting with the clouds, Huila knows a thing or two about coffee: it makes a unique experience out of it thanks to its lands and traditions. Microclimates, rich soils, Andean waters, a wholesome culture and a true passion for coffee can be pressed into a flavor that the entire world hails as some of the best you’ll ever taste.