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The Enchanting Story of Colombia’s Coffee: From Jesuit Priests to Juan Valdez

The Enchanting Story of Colombia’s Coffee

Coffee has been a staple in many people’s diets for centuries, and the importance of this beloved black liquid cannot be overstated. Apart from its invigorating taste and the energy it provides, coffee has played an essential role in the economy of many countries.

Colombia’s coffee industry is a prime example of how a crop can skyrocket a nation’s economy, employment rates and international reputation. Let’s delve into the fascinating history of coffee in Colombia and the iconic Juan Valdez advertising campaign that changed how we perceive Colombian coffee.

The Early History of Coffee in Colombia

Colombia has been producing coffee for over two centuries, and its success in the coffee industry can be traced back to the arrival of Jesuit priests in the mid-18th century. The Jesuits were instrumental in introducing coffee to the country, and they began experimenting with growing coffee crops in Colombia to supplement their other plantations.

It wasn’t until the late 1700s when coffee crops began to be grown on a larger scale. At that time, the Jesuits introduced coffee plants to some of their farms, and this crop gradually became a key part of Colombian agriculture.

The seductive taste of coffee and the possibility of exporting coffee abroad encouraged Colombian farmers to plant more coffee trees, and with the help of colonization, coffee farming began to permeate the country. According to a legend, coffee cultivation in Colombia began when a group of Jesuit priests was exiled to a remote village for their religious beliefs.

The priests went on a fast to pay penance and were consequently forced to survive on a strange fruit they found on trees growing in the local area. This fruit, later to be known as coffee beans, helped the priests survive their ordeal.

Once the fast was over, the priests planted coffee trees to cultivate the fruits that had sustained them, just to learn they were full of beans that became a necessary nutritional source for people in the region.

Global Demand and Increasing Production

The expansion of coffee production in Colombia had a tremendous impact on the country’s economy. Colombia quickly became one of the leading coffee producers globally, as demand for its coffee beans grew.

In fact, Colombia is one of the few countries worldwide known for producing only Arabica beans, which are believed to be of the highest quality and hold a complexity of flavors and aromas. The enormous global demand for Colombian coffee allowed for an expansion of the coffee industry in Colombia and the creation of thousands of jobs.

The country has continued to invest in modernization and promoting the social and environmental sustainability of the coffee industry. Today, Colombia remains a key player in the global coffee market and is recognized worldwide for its quality beans.

Juan Valdez Advertising Campaign

The success of Colombian coffee wouldn’t be complete without the transformational advertising campaign that revolutionized the way we perceive Colombian coffee. Juan Valdez, portrayed by a real-life Colombian coffee farmer, became an iconic symbol of coffee in the 1960s.

Juan Valdez advertising campaign was launched in New York by the advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach. The coffee campaign’s goal was to vividly and proactively showcase the light of Colombia’s culture and country, which could be felt in every bean cup of coffee the country produced.

The advertisements showcased Juan Valdez dressed in traditional Andean clothing, alongside his trusty mule. The Juan Valdez campaign was an instant triumph and helped promote Colombian coffee globally.

The Juan Valdez ads showcased the human side of a coffee farmer who produced every cup of coffee with care, pride and a connection to nature. The advertising campaign helped to maintain the reputation of Colombian coffee and support the country’s farmers, who faced ongoing challenges during political and economic crises.

Protection of Colombian Coffee Reputation and Farmers

The Juan Valdez advertising campaign was more than an advertisement for a product; it was an advertisement for Colombia as a whole. The campaign showed that behind every cup of coffee produced, there was a story, a culture, and people who deserved respect.

The Juan Valdez brand helped to protect the reputation of the Colombian coffee industry and enable the farmers to get a fair price for their high-quality beans. Moreover, the brand helped to assure the customers that they were buying coffee directly from the source, supporting the farmers who poured their hearts into cultivating these beans and providing the best possible coffee.


In conclusion, the history of Colombian coffee is a story that encapsulates the energy, flavor, and legacy of the country of Colombia and its people. The intensity of the coffee industry could be felt in every sip, celebrated by the legend of Jesuit priests, and perpetuated by the incredibly successful advertising campaign of Juan Valdez.

The story is proof that coffee can transform a nation’s economy and provide its people with a sense of national pride and recognition. Today, Colombia is one of the leading coffee producers in the world, and the story behind its coffee is nothing short of enchanting.


The coffee industry remains an essential part of Colombia’s economy and culture today, and it continues to grow and improve. Coffee is not only a significant agricultural crop, but it is also a lifeline for many Colombian families, providing them with a stable income and a way to provide for their families.

In this article, we will delve into the current state of coffee production in Colombia, taking a closer look at coffee farming families, annual export statistics, and the characteristics that make Colombian coffee unique.

Number of Coffee Farming Families

Coffee farming in Colombia has become a family practice, with many farmers inheriting their farms from their parents and grandparents. According to the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, there are currently over 500,000 coffee farming families in the country.

The industry provides direct employment to more than two million people, making it one of the largest employers in the country. The majority of coffee farmers in Colombia own small to medium-sized farms, cultivating their coffee beans with great care and dedication.

Coffee is an essential source of income for these families, with many relying solely on coffee as their main source of revenue. By cultivating high-quality coffee beans and selling them at fair prices, these farmers can provide their families with a stable income and a better quality of life.

Annual Export Statistics and Worldwide Popularity

The coffee industry is vital to the Colombian economy, and it remains one of the country’s top export commodities. In the past year alone, Colombia has exported over 5.7 million bags of coffee, making it the third-largest exporter of coffee globally.

The United States is Colombia’s primary coffee export destination, receiving more than 34% of Colombia’s coffee. Nevertheless, Colombian coffee is recognized and enjoyed throughout the world, with other leading coffee destinations, including Japan, Canada, and Germany.

The high-quality Colombian coffee beans are an iconic symbol of the country, and their flavor profiles and aromas are appreciated by coffee enthusiasts worldwide.

Characteristics of Colombian Coffee

Colombian coffee beans are grown in specific regions, and they have distinctive flavor profiles and aromas. The unique flavor profiles of Colombian coffee are due to the country’s geography and climate.

The beans are grown in regions with high elevations and volcanic soil, with lush and diverse flora. These ideal growing conditions result in beans of the highest quality with an exceptional aroma and flavor.

One of the essential features of Colombian coffee is its mild and balanced flavor profile. Colombian beans are known for their smooth texture, low acidity, and nutty and chocolatey undertones.

Colombian coffee is also known for its medium body, making it perfect for those who enjoy a milder coffee experience. One of the reasons for this mildness is due to the processing of the beans.

Colombian coffee beans are typically washed, meaning that they are soaked in water to remove the outer layers of the bean and allow for retention of the oils and unique flavors. Climate and elevation play a significant role in the cultivation of Colombian coffee beans.

Colombia’s varied landscape and microclimates, combined with a range of elevations, facilitate the growth of different coffee varieties with distinct flavor profiles. For instance, the beans grown in the Sierra Nevada region are known for their fruity flavors, while those from the Huila region have a more chocolatey undertone.

Colombian coffee farmers put great effort into producing the highest-quality coffee, with many employing environmentally friendly and sustainable farming practices. This dedication to sustainability is demonstrated in the majority of coffee grown in Colombia being grown under a shade canopy, alongside other plants and trees.

These shade-grown beans have a lower impact on the environment and, in turn, help support the growth and diversity of the local ecosystem.


Colombian coffee continues to be a popular and globally recognized commodity. The coffee industry plays a significant role in the country, providing employment to millions, and delivering some of the most outstanding coffee beans in the world.

Colombian coffee farming families work hard to produce high-quality coffee beans, their efforts sustaining their livelihoods and ensuring that the coffee industry in Colombia continues to thrive. With stringent quality control measures in place, it is no wonder that Colombian coffee is shared, enjoyed, and respected across the globe.

In summary, Colombian coffee is a vital part of the country’s economy and culture, with over 500,000 families relying on it as their main source of income. The coffee industry continues to grow and improve, with over 5.7 million bags of coffee exported annually and recognition worldwide for the high-quality beans.

Colombian coffee has a unique flavor profile due to geographic and climate influences, and coffee farmers employ sustainable practices that protect the environment. The story of Colombian coffee is an enchanting one, and its importance to the country cannot be overstated.

We can enjoy Colombian coffee knowing that every cup supports local farmers and contributes to a history rich with cultural significance.

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