It’s well known that tea is produced in most parts of the world, but Colombian tea is a special case because this country mostly focuses on coffee.
I had the pleasure of visiting the tea field of the company Agricola Himalaya. Although most of their tea business has been traditionally in the form of tea bags, they have a brand named Bitaco, a loose leaf tea meant for export.
The first time I tried Bitaco tea was in last year’s World Tea Expo. However, I lost contact with them until recently. While I was on a family trip to the city of Cali, they kindly invited me to see their tea field.
What Makes This Tea Special?
This tea has many aspects that make it unique. First of all, as you can see in the pictures the tea bushes are planted in a peculiar way, they are spaced out and quite short. The tea plants themselves are not of the same variety. It’s a mix of sinensis, assamica, and Cambodian. In other words, the result is a natural blend of tea leaves in each harvest.
This tea field is about 50 years old, but it was used to make CTC tea. The orthodox tea production only started a few years ago, probably because the Colombian market for specialty tea has had a hard time to grow because there’s a strong coffee culture.
In regards to terroir, it is also very interesting. Located in La Cumbre, in the department of Valle del Cauca, the altitude ranges between 1,800 and 2,050 meters above sea level. Since Colombia is on the Equator, the temperature is stable all year round. The area is actually a fog forest. It’s fairly cool, but not what one would consider cold.
The tea is picked by hand, with the two leaves and a bud standard. In addition, Bitaco uses organic and sustainable farming practices.
What I consider the most important, however, is that through the Agricola Himalaya Foundation, Bitaco tea gives back to the local community. It has made great improvements in education, infrastructure, recreation, and culture for the inhabitants of La Cumbre. Obviously, the company is also a source of employment.
What Does it Taste Like?
I really liked their black tea. It has a classic feel to it. The sweetness, both in taste and aroma, reminds me of brown sugar.
They also have green tea and some blends. The most interesting one is called cacao kisses, a blend of black tea with cacao husk and nibs. Unfortunately, I can’t give you an accurate review yet, because they are currently improving the process and machinery.
Bitaco is already exporting its tea. If you go to this year’s World Tea Expo, you will be able to taste Colombian tea at their stand.