Chile is one of the few countries in Latin America where tea is more popular than coffee. Yet times are changing, and the specialty coffee industry is starting to take off. With that comes a growing roasting scene.
I spoke to some key players in the Chilean coffee scene. From the challenges facing importers to the micro roasting trend, here’s what they shared with me.
Cupping specialty coffees at Taller Café, Chile. Credit: Taller Café
A Small But Growing Specialty Coffee Scene
I spoke to Anapac, Chile’s national coffee association, to learn more about the demographics of Chilean coffee consumption. They told me that instant coffee, such as Nestle, is still the most commonly consumed coffee – making up 85% of consumption. Commodity-grade beans count for another 12%, with the final 3% representing specialty and “gourmet” coffee.
Yet while this might suggest that Chile lacks a specialty coffee culture, that’s only half of the story. Over the last five years, we have seen a far greater investment in coffee. In 2015, Cafe de Colombia repeated an incredible 52% increase in the number of specialty cafés.
Café Altura, a specialty coffee shop in a marketplace. Credit: Santiago Coffee Lovers
Most of the country’s coffee houses are in Santiago. However, you’ll find specialty coffee shops from the borders of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile to Punta Arenas, one of three claimants to the title “the world’s southernmost city”.
In 2012, Jake Standerfer opened Coffee Culture Roasters in Santiago. He told me, “It is an exciting time to be doing coffee in Chile. We are experiencing a boom in specialty coffee, which is rapidly changing the landscape here. Many customers are coming to value coffees of higher quality as well as appreciate the dedication to sustainability that specialty coffee bears with it. There is much work yet to be done, and I am confident that Chile has great potential to become a solid player in the global coffee scene.”
Cupping coffees at Coffee Culture Roasters. Credit: Coffee Culture Roasters
Distances Matter: Sourcing Green Beans in Chile
It’s hard to get good-quality green beans in Chile. The distance from producing countries works against us – although you will find Colombian, Brazilian, Peruvian, Central American, and even Indonesian coffees here.
Abukaldi Café sources green beans from Colombia and Honduras. Credit: Abukaldi Café
Our low consumption also makes it harder for us to compete for the best beans. We’re behind in both specialty and commercial coffee consumption – in 2009, the ICO calculated that on average we drink just 750 grams per person per year. And this limits our ability to bid for high-quantities of coffee.
I spoke to Daniel Chacon of DACH Coffee Roasters, a key importer and distributor of specialty green beans in Chile. He told me, “We are proud of our work. But it is has been hard work and a lot of effort to bring high-quality beans to Chile.”
Bags of beans purchased by Dach. Credit: Dach Coffee
Micro Roasting & Café-Roasteries
Affordability and accessibility are barriers to the development of a Chilean roast scene – but self-teaching and experimentation are helping it to grow. Giving the small demand, you’ll find mostly micro roasting. At the same time, most coffee shops also roast their own beans – an impressive feat.
Dach Coffee Roasters were a pioneer in the roasting industry, having launched in 2007. They have a wide range of origins available. Abukaldi Cafe work with direct trade, organic, and Rainforest Foundation coffee from Colombia and Honduras. One of their missions is to help consumers understand the importance of fresh roasts. Similarly, Juan Mario Carvajal works hard to provide coffee education in Cafe Cultura. Similarly, Juan Mario Carvajal is not only a great roaster but also works hard to provide coffee education in Cafe Cultura.
Juan Mario Carvajal roasts at Cafe Cultura. Credit: Cafe Cultura
You can find Café Altura in Santiago’s main indoors food market, meaning it’s an accessible place to try specialty coffee for the first time. And Coffee Culture Roasters is another more café-roastery working to promote specialty culture in the capital city.
Patagonia Blend is one of the world’s southernmost roasters. The adverse weather conditions add their own challenges, but the team at this place are determined to offer great coffee. And close to the beach in Vina del Mar lies Taller Café.
The team at Patagonia Blend. Credit: Patagonia Blend
The Chilean roasting scene might be small, and it might be relatively young. However, it is passionate and it’s developing quickly. We’re working hard to make specialty an option in our country – so watch this space.
Written by Emilio Rodriguez
Perfect Daily Grind is not affiliated with any of the individuals or bodies mentioned in this article, and cannot directly endorse them.
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