Sourcing our Fair Trade Colombian Coffee

Submitted by Joel White

Joel White, Product Marketing Director at Green Mtn. Coffee, recently went on a source trip to visit the co-ops where we source our Fair Trade Colombian coffee.  The week-long adventure included high-mountain jeep trips to several small, remote coffee farms and cooperatives.  He was greeted and welcomed along the way by many Colombian farmers including an indigenous group known as the Guambianos.


The Guambianos are considered one of the most traditional indigenous groups in Colombia.  They have preserved their culture remarkably well given their proximity to, and contact with, the ‘civilized’ world.  They speak their own language, dress traditionally and still use rudimentary farming techniques.   They’re also excellent weavers.

Here is a map of Colombia, on the NW corner of South America.  The Colombian coffee we buy comes from the western mountain ranges, in particular the Popayan region, which is highlighted on the map.

Colombia Facts:
•  Population: 44M
•  Biggest Cities: Bogota (7M), Medellin (2.2M), Cali (2.1M)
•  President: Álvaro Uribe
•  Famous Colombians:
– Shakira (pop singer)
– Fernando Botero (sculptor)
– Gabriel Garcia Marquez (writer)
– Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria – (former Red Sox)
• Third largest coffee producer in the world (11.3 million bags), just behind Brazil (27.8 million) and Vietnam (17.9 million) in 2007.
•  Top producer of Arabica coffee in the world.  Produces 3 times more than the next largest Arabica producer (Guatamala 3.7 million bags).

How we interact with the cooperatives in Colombia is known as “direct sourcing.”  We know who produces our beans.  We work to help them improve quality.  And we offer them programs to help fund development projects including schools, water-systems and programs to help them diversify their crops so they are not victims of the “in between” seasons when they are waiting for the coffee crop to mature.  We continue to work with these co-ops to make them more sustainable, which ultimately improves the quality and reliability of our supply-chain.

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