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There was an article in today's NY Times about coffee drinking in Columbia and the Columbian coffee grower's federation's plans to bring Juan Valdez cafes to America, beginning with DC and New York.

Anybody have a notion of whether this could be something to look forward to?

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

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Anybody have a notion of whether this could be something to look forward to?

Doubtful. If all they're selling are drinks made from Colombian beans, it's conceivable that they'll offer a good cup of regular coffee (if they use the select export grades, roast properly, use careful process control on brewing etc.). Espresso is an entirely different beast. Colobian and Brazilian beans can make a good base bean (i.e. neutral) component in espresso blends but it's tough to yield the desired complexity of flavor notes in espresso when using beans from a single country. Most espresso blends contain anywhere from 3 - 5 bean types, usually from different countries and more often than not from different parts of the world.

Colombia, like Brazil, grows lots and lots of cheaper commodity grade coffee but there are some select estate coffees of excellent quality as well. Whether those will make it to the Juan Valdez cafes or not is open to question. The first cup of coffee I ever drank that was good enough to drink black with no cream or sugar was an export grade brought back to me by my GF, who spent a year in Medellin back in the late 1970's. She decried the typically mediocre quality of the coffee she could buy on a daily basis (apparently the watered down "tinto" described in the article). The Supremo export grade, sold only certain stores for tourists etc., was the one she brought back to the US and it was amazingly good.

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Actually, if they value price their coffee drinks (like a buck or so beneath Starbucks for comparable stuff) and use decent grade beans from the zona cafetera, I could see them being successful.

I would definitely go with a much simplified menu than Starbucks though, in order to streamline the operation.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

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I'd guess they won't go too cheap, since they're starting in high rent locations and are trying to pass on a better price to the farmers.

I'd have to agree that if they want to get people to see Colmbian coffee as a quality coffee, then their smartest move would be to feature drinks that showcase the good points of their best beans, rather than a strict 'market' approach of trying to duplicate every drink Starbucks has. But then, they may also have a different idea of what makes a good espresso, etc.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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