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Have a cuppa Colombia

WALKING into the crowded Colombian Pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai, visitors could immediately smell the light, sweet scent of coffee.

It was not as strong as Brazilian coffee, and not as sour as African brews. It was the famous Colombian coffee, the so-called "green gold."

Coffee stands at the top of Colombia's four treasures, preceding flowers, gold and emeralds. At the pavilion's exhibition hall, visitors can purchase a bag of coffee for US$17 per bag.

The plant was introduced to Colombia from the French Antilles in 1808, and was quickly accepted and loved by locals. After 200 years of development, Colombia now has become the second largest coffee producer and the largest wet-washed coffee exporter in the world.

The best coffee beans, said Tomas Arango, business manager at the Colombian pavilion, are from the highlands of the Andes, where the mild temperature and humid air help grow the best-quality coffee.

Unlike in other places, coffee cherries in Colombia are mostly hand-picked, so workers can pick the most mature and suitable ones from coffee trees.

Most Colombian coffee beans are wet-washed, so they have a more sour and consistent taste than dry-washed ones, Arango said.

Colombian coffee is mostly city-roasted, so it tastes mild and silky, unlike strong-flavored Brazilian coffee or Italian espresso.

Coffee in the world can be categorized as "hard coffee" and "soft coffee," with Brazilian coffee and Colombian coffee representing each, respectively.

Brazilians plant coffee trees on the red earth of hills, while Colombians like to plant on the black soil of mountains.

"We bring the world's best coffee, Cafe Colombia, to the most refined and sophisticated people who visit Shanghai Expo," said Mauricio Prada, Colombia's legal director at Shanghai Expo.

"We also held tasting seminars to get Chinese people involved in the culture of coffee," he said.

Noting that the Chinese are "immemorial tea drinkers," Professor Jaime Valencia, a Colombian historian, said coffee was also becoming popular in China.

"When you visit China, you will see Chinese people drinking coffee. Perhaps because it is a strong beverage, it is more stimulating. Although Colombia is not the biggest producer, it produces the best coffee in the world and the Chinese appreciate it," Valencia said.


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