Interview with OSPINA Coffee Company CEO, Mariano Ospina III

A family-owned business with a rich history and influence that spans generations is both romantic and inspiring. Further, their coffee is exceptional in taste, like fine wine offering a unique and unforgettable coffee drinking experience.

This coffee family has a rich history and heritage. Ospina family history is the history of coffee. The Ospina coffee family, whose dedication to excellent coffee carries on and the current members whole-hardheartedly embracing the tradition bringing it to the modern age while holding strong to their history and provenance.

Ospina Coffee, a Brief History

Don Mariano Ospina Rodrguez founded Ospina Coffee in Colombia in 1835. Ospina Rodrguez was a pioneer in coffee cultivation in Colombia and Guatemala. Mariano Ospina Rodrguez (1857–1861), Pedro Nel Ospina (1922–1926), and Mariano Ospina Pérez (1946–1950) were all members of this family business.

Ospina Pérez was a founding member of Colombia’s National Federation of Coffee Growers. Ospina Coffee originated in Colombia’s volcanic highlands of the Andes, South America, and was founded in 1835 by Ospina Rodrguez. In the late nineteenth century, his experimental farm in Fredonia, Antioquia, served as a model finca cafetera (coffee plantation) for Colombian coffee growers. Harvard Professor June Erlick, author of the book “Una Gringa en Bogotá,” explains that “Coffee in Colombia was traditionally grown by very small farmers.” She says the Ospinas helped to change the way the world viewed coffee. “The Ospina family was the first, or certainly one of the first, to see coffee as a larger crop and business.”

Mariano Ospina Rodrguez established his first experimental plantation in Fredonia, Antioquia, in 1835. Former Granadine Confederation (now Colombia) President Ospina Rodrguez arrived in Guatemala in 1863 with his wife Enriqueta Vásquez, four younger children, and his brother Pastora. They established their main coffee plantation “Las Mercedes” in the Pacific piedmont region known as “Costa Cuca.” This coffee plantation became known as the most productive and well-managed in Central America.

The National Press (of Colombia) published the first instruction manual for coffee growing in 1880, titled “Cultivo del Café: Nociones Elementales al alcance de todos los labradores,” written by Ospina Rodrguez (Coffee Growing: Basic notions available to all farmers). Ospina Rodrguez devoted much of his time and energy to educating others about coffee.
In 1931, his grandson, Mariano Ospina Pérez, as General Manager of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, published a second instruction manual for coffee growers. Colombian President Pedro Nel Ospina, son of Ospina Rodríguez, took over the business in 1879.

In 1882, Ospina Rodriguez and his two sons, Mariano and Tulio, established the first of several large-scale coffee plantations and organised their larger coffee processing plants and facilities (“despulpadoras” or “edificios del café”) in Fredonia, Antioquia. These plantations saw the introduction and operation of the first mechanised pulpers and mills.

General Pedro Nel Ospina contributed to the Colombian coffee industry in addition to managing his family’s private coffee enterprises. In 1910, he used his ambassadorship to the United States to promote the industry.

Tulio Ospina Vásquez’s son, Mariano Ospina Pérez, inherited several of the plantations after his father died. Ospina Pérez took over the company as well. He later founded the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, which organised the country’s coffee industry and elevated it to one of the country’s leading commodities. Colombian President Ospina Pérez was elected in 1946. Mariano Ospina, the current owner of Ospina Coffee, claims that it was Ospina Pérez who envisioned the creation of the fictional character Juan Valdez, the TV pitchman with his burro who came to symbolise Colombian coffee.

Mariano Ospina III, CEO Ospina Coffee

It is a great privilege to know and interview Mariano Ospina III, CEO of Ospina Coffee; EAT LOVE SAVOR®’s founder, editor in chief and publisher Angela Tunner spoke with the coffee czar himself in this rare opportunity to get insights into the mind the leader of the world’s top ultra-premium coffee:

What is it about excellent coffee that you love so much?

Excellent coffee or ultra premium coffee, such as a Premier Grand Cru wine from Bordeaux, is something to rave about. It exhilarates your senses, because of its extraordinary aroma, body and taste. It gives you the ecstasy of a rare delicacy. Exquisite refinement is so rare, that when you find it, it leaves you in awe and amazement!

What are some misconceptions about excellent coffee?

I believe that the greatest misconception about ‘excellent’ is that almost nobody knows what excellent coffee really is. The public in general believes to know excellent coffee, but they are far from, way far, from the truth. Excellent coffee or ultra premium coffee is very rare, very scarce and very expensive, just like fine caviar, truffles or Premier Grand Cru wines.

Your coffee family has a wonderfully rich history. What are your hopes for the next generation of Ospina?

We should be able to educate the public and raise the level of consciousness of what excellent coffee is. Coffee lovers, connoisseurs and aficionados should learn to appreciate and distinguish excellent coffee by variety, origin and process, just like wine connoisseurs do about their wines. Years ago in North America wine was sold in the grocery stores by the gallon, and the only difference was the white or red. Now you find an assortment of varietals, regions and vintages, and it should be the same with excellent coffee.

Biography of Mariano Ospina III

Mariano Ospina III., founder, president and CEO of Ospina Coffee Company, left Colombia for the United States in 1980. Like his grandfather Mariano Ospina Perez and father, Mariano Ospina Hernandez, he initially arrived to pursue a university graduate degree in Business and Public Administration.

Born into the Family Business

Although he was born in Bogota, Colombia, he was raised in Medellin, where his grand father Mariano Ospina Perez had several of his coffee plantations. As he completed his formal education, simultaneously he grew familiar with the coffee industry and business of the family.

A New Generation, a New Vision

Where his family had long engaged primarily in the production and wholesale of coffee beans, Mariano Ospina, V., envisioned a move into the roasting, packaging and direct distribution of Ospina Coffee to consumer worldwide. Since he arrived in the United States, he began laying the groundwork for a new facet of the family business.

Since 1980 Mariano had prepared the first business plan to develop this next step in the integration of the coffee business. But not until April 2003, after a concerted three-year organizational and startup process, was Ospina Coffee Company, Inc. incorporated in the state of North Carolina. After the first year of successful operation of this new enterprise, Ospina Estate Coffee is sold worldwide.

Ospina Coffee Facts

  1. Ospina Coffee is the oldest coffee company in the world. Started in 1835, founded by Ospina Rodríguez
  2. Ospina Coffee originated in Colombia’s volcanic highlands of the Andes, South America.
  3. The II National Congress of Coffee Growers convened in June of 1927, in the city of Medellin, Antioquia, and 29 delegates represented the different coffee growing areas of the country. This Congress established the FEDERACON NACIONAL DE CAFETEROS DE COLOMBIA or NATIONAL FEDERATION OF COFFEE GROWERS OF COLOMBIA also know as the COLOMBIAN COFFEE FEDERATION.
These are the 29 delegates that presided the II National Congress of Coffee Growers of Colombia. The Founder of the Colombian Coffee Federation, Don Mariano Ospina-Perez is seated in the front row, number five from left to right.

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