Innovations In Colombian Coffee

Today, Colombia is celebrated as one of the world’s most premier coffee-growing destinations, distinguished by its pioneering practices in coffee processing, variety development, and agronomy. The allure of Colombian coffee has become so pronounced that, over the past five years, more than half of the World Coffee Championship finalists in the Barista and Brewer’s Cup category have chosen to use Colombian coffee in their competitions. However, this esteemed status was not always a part of Colombia’s coffee narrative.

To understand Colombia’s transformative journey in the coffee industry, we must look back to the pivotal year of 2012. It was then that Colombian authorities implemented significant regulatory changes, altering the ways in which producers could process and export their coffee. Previously, the country had stringent restrictions permitting only washed coffees for export, but with the introduction of these regulatory changes, producers were granted the liberty to process and export without constraints, catalysing a wave of exploration and creativity in Colombia’s coffee sector.

Producers began to explore and refine various drying and fermentation techniques, leading to the creation of coffees with unique and complex flavour profiles. This experimentation not only diversified Colombia’s coffee offerings but also allowed producers to differentiate themselves and add value to their crops.

Moreover, the shift towards innovation has also seen Colombian producers improve their overall farming practice to be more sustainable. They’ve been successful in cultivating varietals that are both disease-resistant and less susceptible to climate change, while maintaining their high quality. These advancements have received support from the Colombian government and various non-profit organisations, all aiming to boost the quality of Colombian coffee and ensure its production can continue into the future.

It’s also made it easier to trace where coffee comes from and has promoted direct trading between coffee growers, exporters, and buyers. This means that there’s now a stronger connection between everyone involved in the coffee supply chain, leading to a greater appreciation for Colombian coffee worldwide.

At Zest, we’ve really embraced these changes and we’re excited to share the incredible stories and coffees we discovered during our latest origin trip to Colombia in October 2023.




Historically, the selection of coffee varieties for cultivation in Colombia prioritised high yield and disease resistance, often at the expense of the coffee’s flavour and overall quality. However, since the regulatory changes in 2012, there’s been a transformative approach to coffee cultivation. With the support of the National Coffee Research Center (Cenicafé) – a key branch of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation – efforts have been made towards developing new coffee varieties. These new strains maintain the desirable traits of high yield and resilience found in traditional varieties such as Caturra and Castillo, while significantly enhancing the coffee’s taste and quality profile.

Additionally, coffee producers have also begun creating their own hybrids and mutations, during our recent trip to Colombia, we were fortunate enough to taste some of their latest developments.

Caturra Chiroso: A mutation of Caturra found mostly in the department of Antioquia, which has garnered attention for its exceptional cup quality. Even though it’s not a product of government labs, its popularity highlights the diverse and evolving landscape of Colombian coffee cultivation that research centres like Cenicafé help to support through their agronomic studies and advancements.

Ombligon: Translated from the Spanish word for belly button, this variety is characterised by a small button or ball protruding from the front end of the cherry.Some coffee professionals believe Ombligon is a mutation of Pacamara, Bourbon or even Castillo (due to its leaf rust resistance) while others claim that it is related to an Ethiopian heirloom variety. Nonetheless, the cup profile is unique and displays vibrant, malic-like acidity and great sweetness.

CGLE-17: a hybrid created by Café Granja la Esperanza via cross-pollination between Caturra and Geisha, combining the high yield of Caturra and the exceptional cup profile of Geisha – making it more economically viable to grow than its Geisha parent. Try this coffee.

Mandela: a hybrid also developed by Café Granja la Esperanza between a Timor Hybrid and a Caturra to combine the resistance of the Timor and the high yield of Caturra, making it a perfect variety to produce in larger volume. Try this coffee.

These varietals and cultivars represent a fraction of the ongoing research and development efforts. The creation and dissemination of such varieties demonstrate a committed effort by producers, the Colombian government, and the coffee sector towards improving productivity, sustainability, and resilience against the backdrop of global climate change and market demands.


New Coffee PROCESSING Methods


Since Colombia’s transformative regulatory changes in 2012, which permitted farmers to export beyond traditional washed coffees, producers have been incredibly creative in discovering new ways to process coffee, in order to improve cup quality. We’ve been very fortunate to have tasted and purchased some of these coffees and have them available to you. Below are some of the most advanced methods Colombian producers have exhibited in recent years, with links should you be interested to try some.


Thermo Shock

The Thermo Shock process refers to an innovative method of processing coffee cherries by subjecting them to rapid temperature changes—typically involving both hot and cold treatments. This method is designed to alter the biochemical and physical properties of the coffee beans, impacting their fermentation environment and microbe population, and potentially leading to unique flavour profiles in the finished product. This process was pioneered by Diego Bermudez and Wilton Benitez.

Here’s a general overview of how the Thermo Shock process works:

Heat Treatment: Initially, the harvested coffee cherries are exposed to a hot environment. This could involve soaking the cherries in hot water or exposing them to steam. The heat treatment is thought to initiate specific enzymatic reactions within the cherries and can help to start breaking down the mucilage (the sticky layer surrounding the coffee bean).

Rapid Cooling: Immediately following the heat treatment, the cherries are subjected to a rapid cooling phase, often through immersion in cold water. This sudden shift in temperature shocks the cherries, which may modify the cellular structure of the mucilage and the beans themselves, influencing the fermentation process that follows.

Fermentation and Drying: After the Thermo Shock treatment, the coffee cherries proceed through the standard stages of fermentation and drying. However, the prior thermal treatments may have altered the traditional fermentation dynamics, potentially resulting in coffee with a different flavour profile than what would be achieved through standard processing methods.



Zeo is an innovative processing method developed by Diego Bermudez from Finca El Paraiso in Cauca, Colombia.In Diego’s words, “The goal of Zeo is to showcase the purest expression of the terroir”.Finca El Paraiso is known for their ability to use biocatalyst processes to create different sensory profiles from the same coffee variety.

Unlike many of their other coffees, ZEO is the first process designed to preserve the integrity and purity of the coffee cherry, highlighting the unique attributes transferred by the specific terroir where the coffee is grown.

Using advanced drying technology that combines zeolite, a mineral with high absorption, catalytic, and water retention properties, with a vacuum environment, they are able to dry the coffee cherries within eight hours from picking, without the use of heat. This preserves the structure, colour, and natural flavour of the coffee in an unprecedented way, resulting in a truly unique sensory experience.

Additionally, the ZeoDry technology used for dehydration allows for the full preservation of active compounds such as vitamins and antioxidants, especially those that are sensitive to heat. It also maintains the organoleptic properties of the coffee and ensures the best possible solubility of the extracts.

The result of this process is the cleanest, smoothest, sweetest, and purest cup of coffee we have ever tasted and it provides the closest experience in the cup to tasting the coffee fruit directly from the tree.



Mossto is the juice or crushed pulp of coffee cherries, obtained during fermentation. As cherries get compressed during fermentation, their mucilage release juices which are full of sugars and organic compounds, the perfect nutrient for hungry microbes during fermentation.

Producers like Camilo Merizalde, from Finca Santuario, have pioneered the use of mossto in fermentation. Using the mossto from a mother batch to ferment future lots, they are able to create new, intense aromatic combinations in coffee.

Other producers such as Shady and Elias Bayter from Forest Coffee have taken this practice further by fermenting certain varieties into the mossto of other varieties and sometimes even blending mosstos “since each variety has a different flavour profile, their mossto does too and this can be used as a tool for us to manipulate flavours”, says Elias.



A unique fermentation technique developed by Diego Bermudes, unfortunately didn’t get the chance to see this method in action prior to our departure from Deigo’s farm – Finca El Paraiso, but he share novel insights with us.

Anti-maceration differentiates itself from Carbonic Maceration, in that an anaerobic environment is achieved via vacuum (sucking the air and other gases out), as opposed to inundating the environment with carbon dioxide. By doing so, an atmospheric pressure nearing 0 kPa can be achieved, mirroring pressures in outer-space.

Diego believes that by using Anti-maceration, a distinctive microbe-friendly environment is fostered, leading to the emergence of unique flavours during fermentation. So far, Diego has applied this method to the Castillo variety, producing what may be the finest Castillo we’ve ever encountered. Its profile boasted elegant white florals, juicy citrus, and complex tropical fruit nuances, presenting a wonderfully rich aroma intensity and refined tasting experience.

Diego has dedicated years developing, experimenting, and fine-tuning this new cutting-edge processing method. Being intellectual property, Diego is mindful of how much information he can share in order to protect certain aspects of it, a decision we wholeheartedly support. Diego is now venturing into applying this process to other coffee varieties, confident in its potential to revolutionise coffee processing.




Finca El Paraiso

While many of the recent innovations in the world of coffee are focused around the development of new varieties and processing techniques, some producers recognise that good coffee starts with good agronomy.

One such producers is Diego Bermudes of Finca El paraiso, whom we had the pleasure to visit during our origin trip through Colombia last year. Diego believes that the environment in which coffee is grown is the foundation to exceptional flavour, which is why he’s hired some of the best agronomists in the country to improve coffee quality.

With their help, Diego developed a special mineral cocktail, a particular mix of nutrients used to enrich the soil, tailored to various parts of the farm and the varieties that are grown there. While he wasn’t able to share with us his exact recipe, he did share the 17 key ions used in their formula, along with other interesting insights.

Nitrogen (N): Essential for vegetative growth, nitrogen supports the development of leaves and branches that will later bear coffee cherries. However, excessive nitrogen can lead to vegetative overgrowth at the expense of fruit production.

Phosphorus (P): Important for root development and energy transfer within the plant, phosphorus supports the health and growth of coffee plants, contributing to their overall productivity and resilience.

Potassium (K): Crucial for photosynthesis, water regulation, and fruit development, adequate potassium levels can improve coffee bean size and quality, affecting the cup quality.

Calcium (Ca): Necessary for cell wall development and growth, calcium also influences root health and disease resistance in coffee plants.

Magnesium (Mg): A central component of chlorophyll, magnesium is vital for photosynthesis and overall plant vigour, directly impacting coffee yield and quality.

Sulphur (S) and Trace Elements: Sulphur, along with trace elements like zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), and boron (B), plays a role in various plant physiological processes, including enzyme activities and resistance to environmental stress. These nutrients, while needed in smaller quantities, are crucial for maintaining plant health and improving the quality of coffee production.

Balanced fertilisation strategies, tailored to the specific needs of the soil and coffee plants, can significantly impact the productivity of a coffee farm and the sensory attributes of the coffee produced. Soil tests are often used to identify deficiencies or imbalances, guiding the application of organic or inorganic fertilisers to improve soil health and coffee quality.


Tio Conejo

We also had the pleasure of visiting Tio Conejo, a magical farm in the verdant hills of Manizales, Colombia. Translating to “Uncle Rabbit” in English, Tio Conejo is a truly unique farm. Inspired by children’s fairy tales, Tio Conejo is a mystical guardian of the land, always omnipresent, protecting the farm, the forest, and caring for his friends and family.

While we were absolutely imbued with the magical allure of Tio Conejo, their agronomic practices were also just as impressive. What sets Tio Conejo apart from other farms, and also pays homage to their story, is their harmonious relationship with nature. Rather than fighting or warding off what most producers would consider as pests, they employ a more biodiverse, organic, and biodynamic approach to farming – harnessing the power of life that is already present.

They are completely organic and do not use any pesticides or herbicides. Their farm is abundant in life, both large and small. From the variety of trees planted, to the microbes, flora and fauna, the farm presents a truly distinct and flourishing coffee landscape. This unique environment has attracted a plethora of animals and plant species to call it their home, all of which bring layers of character to their incredibly delicious coffee.


Unparalleled Innovation


Since 2012, Colombia has made remarkable strides as a coffee-producing nation. The surge of innovative initiatives emerging from producers and cooperatives is unparalleled. Colombian farmers recognise the competitive landscape extends beyond their local peers to the global stage, facing off against top coffee-producing countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, and Panama. Embracing innovation is not merely a strategy for enhancing quality, but is a capable method for boosting yield to remain competitive.

This impressive take has equipped Colombian coffee producers to effectively navigate the complexities of contemporary coffee production, enabling them to enhance their livelihoods through wider access to international markets and securing higher prices for their coffee. Such forward-thinking and limitless innovation position Colombia distinctively in the global coffee industry.




To celebrate Colombian Innovation, we’ve been running a series of events across Australia, giving the public an opportunity to learn and taste some of these incredible coffees. The form below will give you access to all of our presentation slides as well as 10% off our Colombian Innovation range which includes: CGLE, Santuario Projects, and Granja Paraiso 92 coffees.