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Juan Valdez and Organic Coffee
The fictional character, Juan Valdez, is a familiar icon for pure Colombian coffee and more recently the trade name for a chain of coffee shops featuring one hundred percent Colombian coffee. I asked myself the question recently if there is such a thing as Juan Valdez organic coffee. If Juan Valdez coffee is any batch of 100% pure Colombian coffee then there certainly is Juan Valdez organic coffee as there are organic coffee growers in Colombia. However, unfortunately, tour of the Spanish language Juan Valdez website does not reveal a distinct label for healthy organic coffee for any the international coffee chain’s coffees.
A question that comes to mind is this. Does organic coffee need to be certified as USDA organic coffee in order to be organic coffee? USDA certification assures the consumer that the coffee his is drinking has passed inspection, so to speak. Certified organic coffee is grown under sustainable growing conditions. It is almost always shade grown organic coffee. In growing organic coffee the grower does not use synthetic fertilizers, typically does not crowd his plants, intersperses his plants under a shade cover, avoid the use of herbicides and insecticides, and segregates his organic coffee from non-organic beans during processing, roasting, storage, and shipping. Proving this requires that the USDA or a designee show up where the coffee is grown and inspect the entire operation.
Now remember that Colombia has been dealing with an insurrection within its borders for more than fifty years after a period of upheaval called “la violencia.” Although the remaining rebel groups started with a Marxist–Leninist ideology many believe that they have simply become bandits and robber barons who at one point controlled - through threats - up to a third of the rural parts of Colombia.
These parts that have often been under de facto rebel control include parts of the Colombian Cafetero, one of the best coffee growing regions of the world. The Cafetero benefits from ample rainfall and high elevations. Coffee can be and commonly is grown on virtually every open space, hillside, mountain side, and sloping back yard. Much of the coffee is grown by traditional means. The coffee is interspersed with plants such as plantain. Much of this coffee is grown by people who are essentially subsistence farmers. They grow what they need to eat and pick what are, to a degree, wild coffee beans, for supplementary income. Growing organic coffee in the shade - much of this coffee is grown and processed under organic conditions and commonly comes down the mountain a burro led by a man, the icon of Juan Valdez organic coffee.
Perhaps one day organic coffee drinkers will be able to get their organic coffee antioxidants and organic coffee aroma from coffee grown and certified in Colombia, Juan Valdez organic coffee.