Carrera 11A # 89-48
Bogota – Colombia
Cafe Don Pedro is one of those places that began Maher Hound’s entire journey into the coffee world. An exercise in objectivity would be senseless in this post considering my first encounter with the wonderful Colombian grown stimulant known as Cafe Don Pedro began in the late nineties after my father received a pound as a gift from a friend stationed at the US Embassy in Bogota. At the time my family did not find the coffee particularly amazing and I was too young to have taken up the habit of coffee drinking full-time yet.
Several years later, after being reintroduced to Colombian coffee through a chocolate covered experience with Oma coffee, I found my way down to Colombia and into the storied retail location of Cafe Don Pedro on Calle 90 where it intersects Carrera 11A. Beyond having one of the most folkloric, traditional coffee themed interior designs I have ever seen in a coffee shop; Cafe Don Pedro had very well trained and highly knowledgeable staff that were able to describe everything about the entire supply chain process of a coffee plant/bean and how to prepare beverages with care and with style.
My first visit to Cafe Don Pedro in the flesh was in 2006. This was before I had been properly introduced to cupping and understanding the careful and lengthy process of training one’s palate to distinguish subtle discrepancies in the flavor profile of different beans and brews. Even at this early juncture of my coffee loving career, I knew I had come across a truly amazing quality of coffee. Upon my departure from Colombia several months later I carried several pounds of the delicious substance with me (beans were packaged according to their Department (a national sub-unit similar to a State) of origin). The most well-rounded beans sold by Don Pedro were probably the Cudinamarca blend – taken from the region immediately surrounding Bogota. The most unique and distinctly (although quite mild) beans were those from Huila, found south of Neiva heading towards the Colombia-Ecuador border on the 45 highway. The Huila beans – last time I tried them in 2008 – had a vanilla and nutty undertone in the finish that was preceded by bright orange acidity in the initial sip.
Upon my return to Colombia in 2008, I made another stop at Don Pedro and enjoyed the comfortable ambiance and coffee of the shop. Did I mention that, because they roast coffee every day right in the front of the shop, there is an overwhelmingly pleasant aroma of fresh roasted coffee that greets each customer upon entering the shop?
In 2008 I sat down and discussed the business – both the beauty of owning one’s own specialty coffee retail location in a country dominated by the Juan Valdez and FEDERCAFE image AND the problems associated with trying to leverage the international recognition of the Juan Valdez label while trying to directly export one’s own brand to international markets. It appears that Pedro de Narveaz is still wrapped up in a legal dispute with the National Coffee Growers Federation in Colombia and this will likely – due to the political clout and financial resources of the Federation – end badly for our beloved Don Pedro.
Despite these facts, his business does incredibly well just by selling to the Bogota equivalent of Washington, D.C.’s ‘Embassy Row’ with high praise coming from the US Embassy in Bogota and his own product positioning in Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport for those hoping to grab a bag of Don Pedro before hopping on the plane. I returned yet again to Don Pedro in July 2010 to grab five pounds and sample a delicious espresso with my girlfriend. As she enjoyed her cappuccino with ‘fluffy foam’ and delicious coffee cookie treats, I reminisced about the more than four years of coffee patronage at this wonderful location in downtown Bogota. Now, with the store moving down the street into a smaller shop on Calle 89 with 11A, I am both saddened and excited about the future of the Cafe Don Pedro experience. The new commerce brought to this neighborhood by the incoming Mall will definitely boost foot traffic in and around Cafe Don Pedro, but it will also dramatically alter the quiet and charming experience that this neighborhood offered the older Bogotano crowd looking for an elegant cafe to discuss Colombian culture, society, politics and – most importantly – coffee.