King Carlos's Coffee Empire was born in 1878 when Antonio Pinzon, the father of Carlos, established the first large coffee plantation in the Central Colombian Caldas region - a mountainous zone where, even today, road communications are tenuous.
In the beginning, the pioneer coffee planter, Antonio encountered consumer resistance to his new product in Caldas and in its mountain capital, Manizales. In the 1870s, English tea was the drink of the region's society ladies. The masses drank "arguadiente" (firewater liquor) or the hot sugar-cane beverage "agua de panela" Antonio persisted and, high in the Andean mountains, he developed a prosperous plantation enterprise which his son, Carlos, inherited when he was only 15.
At first, Carlos dedicated himself to extending the family's plantation holdings, during one Colombian civil war, he bought land cheaply, not only in Caldas but also in the Antioquia and Valle regions. Then, as a major planter he turned his attention to the export world. Prior to World War I, Colombia's coffee export business was a hazardous and primitive affair; green beans were transported by foot and by mule down from the mountains along tracks that were often impassable in the rains. The coffee was then freighted by river steamers to the coast for export, it sometimes took months for consignments to reach their destinations in Europe and the U.S.
To remedy this, The Coffee King opened an office in New York, which was the first Colombian agency there to specialize in coffee. Soon, the office developed into a general trading centre as other Colombians took advantage of Pinzon's U.S. contacts to build up their own commercial lines in association with him. He was The Coffee King so much so that between 1905-1925, he was Colombia's dominate exporter, shipping out as much as 40% of the country's coffee output.
Carlos was the father of the present-day Coffee Growers Federation, overlording consignments, tying up export orders, arranging insurance, and in many cases financing. His Columbian mansion in fact, was virtually a bank; he is reputed to have kept even gold ingots on the premises, he had foreign exchange in plenty and in a fair range of moneys, and he was in all but by name a currency trader. He went into partnership with the U.S. company Huth & Co. and a new coffee-trading company named Pinzon and Huth was formed.
By the 1920's, Pinzon had plantations throughout central and western Colombia. On his largest farm alone (El Arenillo) he had more than 120,000 coffee bushes. He owned green coffee bean processing plants in over 20 towns.
After Carlos died in New York, at the age of 51, his coffin on route to his homeland, was received with all but state honors when he was transported through the Panama Canal his coffin wrapped in a Panamanian flag, similar ceremonies took place in Colombia, more than 200 horsemen accompanied "King Coffee" to his resting place. Colombia's King Carlos had returned home, the tribute to King Carlos continues.
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