Colombian coffee: an interview with the pros

Yorisato Iwata, SCAA member, talks softly but wisely. He silently watches what goes on around him. His first visit to Colombia was different to his visits to other countries. He is used to meet with executives in their offices, but in Colombia we took him to visit the farms, to talk to the farmers and their crews so he could get a close look at the people who cultivate the coffee that he will sell. He also had the opportunity to taste several of the foods and drinks that the campesinos enjoy and, of course, to savor coffee freshly roasted, ground and brewed right at the fincas by the growers themselves.

GK. - How long have you been involved in the coffee business and how?

YI. - I joined NCC (Nippon Coffee Trading) at the age of 24, so I've been involved in the coffee business for 23 years.

GK. - Please compare Colombian coffee with other Latin Americans in a mild-to-strong scale.

YI. - This is my idea: I think that Colombian coffees have good body, acidity and aroma, and are totally balanced. And the best point is sweetness.

GK. - The weather last year affected Colombian crops; how did this affect the market? What do you think is the forecast for next year?

YI. - Colombian coffee is very important for Japan's coffee market. Many roasters in Japan use Colombian coffee as a core of blend. So this situation (reduced crop in 2009) in Colombia is unfavorable for us. Anyway, I hope the situation gets better soon.

GK. - Organic is the current trend. Do buyers tend to purchase Colombian organic? How does Colombian organic rate or compare with others?

YI. - As you tell me, organic coffee is the current trend in Japan as well. But Japanese standard for organic (JAS) is very strict. In case of roasting organic coffee, roasters have to get many certifications. It costs much, and needs troublesome actions. So the organic coffee market is not going ahead as expected. Concerning the share of Colombian organic in Japan, it is not so much popular as others. I think that's because Colombian organic is more expensive than others.

GK. - Colombia has several coffee growing regions; can you tell us how do they compare in taste, mildness and fragrance?

YI. -Recently, Huila is getting popular in Japan due to COE. Huila is well-balanced, body, acidity, sweetness... And Popayan, Nariño are popular in Japan for the same reason.  The most popular Colombian coffee in Japan is Emerald Mountain. It's the canned coffee of Coca-Cola.

GK. - Tell us about the Japanese coffee market behavior. What are the trends?

YI. - Our trend nowadays is "Drip Bag", which we can drip coffee easily with. The number of unmarried people or late marriage is increasing in Japan. Two-generation family as well. So I think "Drip Bag" is getting more popular recently. Please look at the pictures below. This is "Drip Bag"

GK. - Is Colombian coffee well positioned in the Japanese market? What is the Japanese perception of Colombian coffee?

YI. - As I told you in the former question, Colombian coffee is very important for us. I think it has higher potential than others. So I expect Colombians to keep on producing good coffee. We Japanese count on Colombia.

GK. - What advice would you give Colombian growers to increase their market share?

YI. - It's just cup quality. I can see many desmucilaginadora* machines in Colombia. That machine gives much damage to coffee. I want them to keep traditional method to ferment. Actually, I can understand their situation; traditional method costs much and takes much time. But that machine is not good for cup quality. I suppose if they do so, their future will be better.

* Desmucilaginadora is the mill used to remove the mucilage from the coffee beans. The traditional method of fermenting the coffee pollutes water, and is a slow process. It seems that fermentation yields a better cup, but more research needs to be made.

Gazy and Yorisato IwataGazy and Yorisato Iwata

Drip Coffee bag

Drip Coffee bag

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