Category Archives: Bogota

Buzz: Starbucks Launches Posh Store in Colombia

Yesterday, Starbucks officially arrived in Colombia.

After years of keeping the multinational specialty coffee powerhouse at bay, Juan Valdez will no longer be able to avoid battling Starbucks in its native market of Colombia. Starbucks, after being challenged by Juan Valdez in the US market in the early 2000s, and trying its own marketing foray into now defunct specialty coffee concept (15th Avenue Coffee), has launched its first retail coffee bar in Bogota, Colombia.

Instead of running from what many perceive as its strongest asset, the Starbucks brand, Starbucks is fully featuring its logo outside of this centrally located destination. Perhaps after completing decent market research, Starbucks realized that many in the growing global middle class aspire to an affluent lifestyle characterized by iPhone ownership, Starbucks specialty drinks, Coach products, and other premium brands. One of the most attainable products accessible to any income bracket is a simple cup of coffee and a snack. Juan Valdez, with its elegantly designed retails stores, has long taken advantage of growing wealth and a cultural disposition towards public life –of which the coffee shop culture plays a role. Since 2002, Juan Valdez retail locations have represented a place where folks can meet for business, for spending time with old friends and family, or on a date. It is seen as hip for younger generations while also as respectable and safe by older generations. It is also a source of national pride.

In reality, Colombia has been ripe for the arrival of Starbucks for a decade, but the terms  of that arrival have constantly evolved. This is emphasized in the version of Starbucks launched in Bogota, which is clearly meant to improve upon the Juan Valdez concept. They are aiming higher in terms of premium status, and likely want to differentiate Starbucks from Juan Valdez along those lines. In the short-term, it is likely that Starbucks will focus its Colombia expansion on only the most desirable, high-end, urban locations in order to solidly establish the luxury brand concept. It remains to be seen whether they creep down the price continuum to “Starbucks Express” and kiosk locations in a market that is already saturated with Oma and Juan Valdez competitors. There is nothing economical or middle class feeling about the Parque de la 93 location of the new Starbucks. Although a fairly small, quaint and stylish area, it is essentially a mashup of Georgetown DC and Central Park West NY  (Embassy Row clientele mixed with the wealthiest from the nearby financial district).

The Bogota cafe makes use of locally sourced wood, antique- and hammered-brass light fixtures and sells Colombian-inspired food such as cheese sticks and croissants with a sauce similar to dulce de leche. Source: Starbucks Corp. via Bloomberg

No doubt, there may some Starbucks clients that struggle internally with whether to support their  homegrown hero, Juan Valdez. Although, in the end, it appears that the Federation (Federación Nacional de Cafeteros) ensured local growers would benefit regardless of the new competitor– Starbucks in Colombia claims to source 100% of the coffee used in Colombia from Colombian growers. Starbucks’ unambiguous strategy to rapidly expand in Colombia, Brazil and throughout the region, could negatively impact the bottom line for Procafecol S.A., the parent company of Juan Valdez stores. In fact it could be devastating for an enterprise that claims to be preparing for an IPO and has struggled in its attempts to expand in the US and abroad.

For more pictures and the official press release from Starbucks, click here.

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Cafe Hounding: Cafe Samba – Bogota, Colombia

Cafe Samba
Bogotá, Colombia
Cra 7 # 58-48
Tel: 348 1697

Unfortunately, I enjoyed Café Samba so much that I’ve barely even took a photograph of the place, though having frequented it on many occasions spanning from 2006 to 2010.

It is difficult to state what the best part of the lounge/cafe/bar located on the Septima is: the coffee products, natural juices, and cocktails are simply the best in that part of Bogotá; the moderately sized food selection is equally impressive in quality. They make the most of what they have when it comes to ambiance of the place (lounge feel even without the chic lounge budget of the Chico and Parque 93 neighborhoods). Service is superior for the price range and the couch located at the front of the shop always seemed to be reserved for me. Also, the clientele is an attractive youngish blend of professionals and students.

My favorite item on their menu would be a fresh blended non-alcoholic natural joice cocktail of Maracuya, Mango and Orange Juice mix. The quality of their coffee is above average for a country that exports the majority of their high quality beans.  They use a high quality vintage Elektra espresso machine and decent coffee roasted in country.  I imagine they could improve their coffee quality if they sourced their coffee from a better roaster.

Musically, this café makes an impression on locals and visitors alike considering the high quality sound system wired from wall-to-wall and mounted in the ceiling. The “DJ” tends to be whatever barman  has a free moment. Luckily, all have terrific taste when it comes to selecting a good playlist.

View of Bogota afternoon from front of Cafe Samba

If you make it to Colombia, Cafe Samba is well worth a stop along the way.

Mushrooms, Aromatica Tea, Fruit Drinks in 2010

– Maher Hound

Cafe Hounding: Cafe Don Pedro – Bogota, Colombia

Carrera 11A # 89-48
Bogota – Colombia
http://www.cafedonpedro.com/primera_del_Cafe.htm

Don Pedro's interior from the back room looking out towards the adjoined bakery run by Pedro's wife.

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.

 

Gently kissing this cup of C-marca espresso blend goodnight on my last evening in Bogota in July 2010.