It is a sad fact that in the coffee capital of the world, 80 percent of the coffee drunk is imported. Sadder still, Colombia’s population remains very much in the dark, when it comes to endless flavours of this homegrown bean. Entrepreneurs Stephen Sutton and Joshua Maidan want to redress this imbalance, shining the spotlight on the truly deserving Colombian coffee, showcasing it in all its glory with their ‘Devotion Cafe’.
If you’re after a ‘skinny latte’ or a run of the mill ‘tinto’, Devotion Café will probably not be your first stop. However, if, like me you are an “addict” and keen to sample truly gourmet flavors in the most famous coffee growing country in the world, a trip to their cafe on Carrera Septima comes recommended.
“We like to paint a rainbow of flavours,” explains Maidan as he asks whether I would prefer bitter, sweet, acidic or soft. I feel ashamedly naive as the company co-partner explains that, like wine, coffee is full of notes, over 1,000 in fact, and it is a woefully misunderstood and undervalued drink.
Maidan orders a range of coffees to demonstrate. Each is meticulously prepared requiring skilled baristas to handle the lovingly grown beans. Cups and glasses of different sizes, shapes and colours arrive on the table and Joshua begins to tell the story behind each. “We want Devotion Café to be a personal experience where people can really see what can be done with coffee,” he explains, relating the processes the coffee undergoes in their cafe to an apothecary.
Each coffee has a distinct flavour depending on where it was grown and how it was harvested, handled and roasted. From the simple but very tasty cappuccino to the Kyoto slow dripper, a process which allows the coffee to drip through ice and infuse for 24 hours, Devotion Café provides an impressive range of aromas and flavours. From the unusual Honey Berry infusion with its distinct sweetness, to the Wild Forest Espresso packing the bitter punch I had been craving since arriving in Bogotá, the experience at Devotion Café is one of true high gastronomy coffee.
Joshua confesses that he is by no means a coffee connoisseur having studied music and worked in several areas of industry, yet he is passionate about his product and after having tasted the true potential of Colombian coffee, he wouldn’t dream of going back to what he once drank. “We are offering something people have never seen before,” he states referring to their artisan and boutique coffee movement as the “third wave of coffee,” following the creation of the drink and it’s popularisation over the past decades.
Sourcing from over 450 farms across Colombia, the ambitious duo work hard to ensure the farmers are paid above fair trade prices and that their working and living conditions allow them to produce the best possible coffee. “Colombia’s geography and climate are perfect for growing coffee,” Joshua explains, “and the sustainability of coffee production is very important to us.” The company takes its social responsibility very seriously, supporting farmers in various dangerous and poverty stricken areas of the country with their project ‘Devotion Nativos’ and wider ‘Devotion Family’, comprising of a network of coffee growers in departments such as Amazonas, Cauca, Chocó and Huila.
Stephen and Joshua plan to grow Devotion Café into a multinational, expanding their venture across Colombia and attempting to enter the competitive coffee market of New York in six months. Having known each other since the age of ten, Joshua explains the two complement each other as business partners; Stephen takes charge of sales and the commercial side of the business, while Joshua ensures the company’s infrastructure “runs like a Swiss clock.” Confident that there is a huge market for gourmet coffee in coun- tries throughout the world, the pair are determined to be part of the movement showcasing the ‘New Colombia’ through its most famous, yet perhaps relatively under-discovered product.
The layout and ambience of the café match the detail of the branding and hand stamped packaging that reflect the authenticity and quality of the company. Joshua brushes off the idea of the arrival of Starbucks being a threat to Devotion Café, explaining the differences between the companies and the benefits of competition in the market place. Devotion Café’s vision is to educate the consumer so they can taste the quality and variety of Colombian coffee, as Joshua explains, “educated consumers will buy more as they know what they want.” So prepare to be educated by these enthusiastic en- trepreneurs who are immensely proud of their product, and a great representation of what Colombia has to offer.