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Colombian Coffee History and Tradition

OMA, in German affectionately means grandmother.......... In 1970, OMA was born, like the first store of coffee gourmet in Bogotá. It was an idea brought from Europe eager to provide a wide variety of alternatives to coffee connoisseurs. For OMA it was an honor and a challenge to introduce in the market of a coffee country like Colombia, producer of the best smooth coffee of the world, a store of coffee gourmet, where the consumer had interesting varieties of coffee to choose from including different roasting degrees, and different types of milling. As of today OMA proudly own and runs several coffee shops and specialized book stores where people meet to enjoy the benefits of the different varieties of Colombian coffee, adding a valuable tradition they share with family and friends.

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How Colombian Coffee is grown.... The story of Colombian Coffee begins in the nursery, where thousands of carefully selected beans are planted. The beans are sown close together and covered with rich, fertile soil. About eight weeks later, the seeds germinate and roots develop. The healthiest plants are selected and transplanted in the nursery and carefully nurtured for six months. When the seedlings grow to about two feet in height, they are transplanted to the plantation where they are carefully cultivated. It takes an average coffee tree approximately three to four years to grow to full size and to blossom. The first fruit appears about six months later. Coffee trees are unique; they bear ripened fruits and flowers at the same time. Each coffee tree produces one pound (455 grams) of coffee annually.

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How the beans are processed.... When the coffee beans are a rich, red color, they are ready for harvesting. Only then are the berries picked individually. After the farmer picks all the coffee berries from the tree, they are put into bags and loaded on mules or donkeys.

They go on to the only mechanical means of help for the farmer, the de-pulping machine. This machine removes the pulp off of the two seeds that are in the center of each berry. The two beans found in the berry are flat on one side and rounded on the other. The pulp, or the red covering that you see, goes back to the soil as fertilizer for new plants and seeds while the beans, still encased in a tough parchment husk, go to large concrete tanks.

Here they soak in cold mountain water for 24 hours. The soaking starts a slight fermentation, which is of vital importance for the aroma of the coffee. The beans are then carefully washed in long concrete troughs. Any twigs, debris, or poor quality beans are discarded. Unlike beans from other origins, all Colombian Coffee is "washed" coffee, which gives Colombian Coffee it's rich taste and aroma. When the washing is over the beans must be dried. They are scooped up and put into large straw baskets. They are then spread out on great open-air terraces, where they are turned again and again until the wind and sun have dried them completely. It is necessary to cover the beans at night and when it rains.

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Proud tradition of Quality Control.... Another aspect of Colombian Coffee that makes it so unique is the country's high quality control standards. It starts in the farm where the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia sends an appointed official to inspect each farm for sanitary conditions, healthy trees and the quality of each harvest. The inspector checks to see if the beans have been washed properly. He looks for adequate bean size, color texture and overall quality. He begins the final test by removing the husk and tough parchment to expose the bean. You will see him cut the bean in half with a sharp knife. If there is not too much moisture in the bean, the beans will not fly away. If the bean is too dry, it will split too quickly, but if it has been dried just right, the inspector will authorize the farmer to take his crop to the market.

The beans are put into burlap bags and loaded onto jeeps. In certain regions, mules and donkeys are still an important mode of transportation from the farm to the market. At the market, the operation's owner further tests the farmer's crop. His assistant punctures the coffee bags and removes a random sample of beans and puts them into a tiny machine, which removes the bean's parchment. The owner then tests the beans for aroma, color, size, moisture and texture. Only the best crops are sold and distributed for export.

The beans are now brought to the mill where they are fed into machines that remove the tough parchment husk and silvery skin that surrounds each bean. The beans pass through different screening processes, where they are freed from impurities and sorted by size, weight and shape. Young women undertake that last critical inspection and discard inferior quality beans. Now the rich, olive-green beans are ready to be poured into bags and are sealed for export.

It is only after this long process that the Federation will give its stamp of approval. However, before the bags are sealed, yet another sample is taken which is graded and weighed. This sample of coffee is roasted, ground, and finally tasted in a properly prepared cup of coffee. The experts give marks for aroma, acidity and uniformity. If the experts are not satisfied with the quality of a particular lot, export is refused.

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