Since the late 1950s, the fictional Juan Valdez has been the face of Colombian coffee. The indefatigable Juan and his trusted mule, Conchita, have long enjoyed their role carrying one of the world’s most iconic brands, and have starred in countless television commercials. The actors playing Juan have changed over the years, but the fundamental story has not: Colombia has long had the reputation for hosting one of the best coffee-growing regions on Earth, as this 30-year commercial that used to make the rounds in the United Kingdom proclaimed:
The force behind Juan Valdez is the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia(Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia, or FNC), which for over 90 years has led the promotion, production and export of Colombian coffee to the world.
It is because of FNC that coffee is closely tied with Colombia’s national identity. The organization’s efforts are why the country endures as the world’s third largest coffee producer. FNC’s branding is why any Colombian with means has a frequent buyer accountwith the Juan Valdez chain of coffee shops. And finally, FNC’s drive is why outside of the Zona Cafetera (coffee growing region) of Colombia, many foreign visitors complain they cannot find a decent cup of coffee: after all, the best beans are exported to North America, Europe and East Asia.