Colombian Coffee Production and Iced Espresso

Following the coffee production route to Colombia brings us nicely to a recipe for iced espresso that is really quite something to be experienced. This article looks at the background of production in this fascinating country.

As many people are already very much aware, coffee production is carried out in much of South America. Most famous, of course, is the Republic of Colombia, rich in legends of coffee and Juan, who brought this small country to the front of coffee competition.

Coffee Growers Lead Colombian Exports

Although Colombia has suffered a bad reputation due to the presence of radical militias, violence and narcotics, Colombia is a vastly unique country with a long history and a delectable culinary background.

Recently, Colombia has risen once again to the top of the news, mainly for its involvement with coffee. The Republic of Colombia is home to more than 39 million people, many of whom are agriculturally tied.

According to LonelyPlanet.com, an informative website that offers both statistics and country descriptions, of the $254 billion US dollars a year in GDP, coffee was near the top of the list for Colombia's exports. Yet, there has been new attention on the coffees of South America and it is almost entirely due to the depletion of the rainforests.

Rainforest Solution

Every day, thousands of acres of rainforest are clear cut in order to provide open sun space for cattle, factories, crop fields and coffee plantations. With every inch of lost rainforest, we risk the loss of millions of animal and insect species that help to balance the ecosystem.

Environmental groups of all kinds, including the Audobon Society and GreenPeace, are turning their eyes and efforts to stopping the depletion of the rainforest in order to preserve bird and mammal groups, indigenous peoples' lands, and, of course, the planet. In Colombia, that effort is apparent and coffee plantations are being targeted.

A new solution to the loss of the rainforest in relation to coffee production is an urging for coffee growers to switch to shade grown coffee. The natural canopy of the rainforest offers a mild and moist climate for coffee to peak in at the same time preserving the valuable rainforest.

But, what on earth does this do for coffee?

Well, coffee plants that are grown in full sun are often less immune to disease, which means the use of more synthetic chemicals to ward off pesky insects and bacteria. With the application of chemicals and pesticides comes the cost of these products, an added expense to farmers, and eventually consumers, who are already competing in a market that has seen its lowest prices in history. The actual clear cutting of the forests are another expense, often demanding large, expensive equipment or manual labor to finish the deed.

hese added costs are combined with the lack of sustainable timber supplies, fruit crops, and local mammal species that small farmers survive on or use as supplemental income if coffee crops fail. Finally, as attractive as it may seem to clear land for larger coffee plantations, such large productions monopolize the market and can aid in a surplus supply, which inevitably causes coffee prices to plummet. Shade grown coffee avoids much of these conflicts.

Shade Growing

The small amount of capital it takes to grow shade grown coffee is attractive to local farmers and is appealing to distant environmentalists looking to the future. Shade grown standards are presently being enacted and many coffee sellers are waking to the new provision in coffee dealing.

As consumers, it is always wise to keep atop the newest environmentally friendly products, of course being careful not to fall quickly into the hands of short-term fads that tend to do more harm than good. Shade grown coffee is a less technological method, often organic, and economically friendly to farmers in countries like Colombia who are forced to compete in a market they themselves have no voice in.

As the year continues, keep hopeful that more sellers will carry shade grown coffees and more consumers will become aware of the impending environmental threats that land on our table every day, masked as dark aromatic delights. Enjoy coffee, enjoy Colombian brews, and as always, enjoy our planet as we received it, not as we have changed it!

Bigger Isn't Always Better

Or So Napoleon Said In going around the world in eighty days, there are dozens of countries one could visit to explore the inner workings of coffee. One might think of Colombia or Ethiopia when coffee geography is questioned. But, how many people would think of St. Helena, a small island in the south Atlantic 1,200 miles west of Africa?

Not many, not even this writer!

It was by pure accident that I discovered St. Helena and it coffee production, but by no means was it disappointing. Being trained as a historian, my ears perked at the opportunity to utter that this was the second island to which Napoleon I was exiled and died in 1821.

But, that hardly helped my yearning for information about coffee.

St Helena Coffee Production

It was then, when I scrolled through the information about St. Helena that I discovered one of the world's best kept coffee secrets. Not only does the island produce coffee, but it offers the highest quality beans produced under some pretty desirable work conditions! Coffee production on St. Helena is a rather exciting addition to the island.

David Henry, whose family had lived on the island for over three hundred years, left his native England to try his hand at producing coffee on the hilly, warm landscape of this small island. The purity of the air, water and land attracted Henry to his family and some government plantations that he eventually took over and modernized.

Soon, Henry's plantations were producing green-tipped Bourbon Arabica, a high quality bean that goes through a tedious process before being bagged and shipped to a the United Kingdom. Henry's plantations even daringly trace the old path to Napoleon's first tomb, occupied before Napoleon was moved to Paris where he 'resides' now, land that has belonged to Henry's family since the 17th century.

Costly Production

Producing coffee on a small South Atlantic island may sound heavenly, but there are definite trials to deal with. Mainly, the island is isolated and offers little in the way of technology and resources.

The costs for shipping, tools and farming equipment are expensive when held against the estimated 50 tons of coffee that can be produced in a year.

High Pay Rates

Still, plantation workers are well paid, even by American farming standards. A St. Helena plantation worker can make £10 for a six and a half hour work day, five times what a worker in, what are considered well paying, Caribbean plantations. Also, the workers are provided with transportation to work, supplemented by the island's high standards of health care and education.

With all of these added expenses, St. Helena could possibly be the most expensive coffee produced in the world! Coffee production isn't always about gain. Sometimes, like in the case of David Henry, there are farmers who work the land because they love to do it and they take care of those who make such work possible.

So, as we venture around the world, be sure to pause for a moment at the islands of St. Helena where tropical weather, beautiful scenery and wonderful coffee seem to go, happily, hand in hand.

Recipe: Iced Espresso

Ingredients

Method

Fill a tall glass with ice cubes. Mix in espresso, syrup, and milk. Fill with club soda. To top, add whipped cream and finish with shaved chocolate.

*To Shave Chocolate: Take a plain chocolate bar and shave with a hand held grater. Easy!

Serves 1