Just-picked coffee berries. Photo: jakeliefer, Flickr
Everybody recognizes his trademark hat and bushy mustache, but is Colombian coffee's most beloved mascot man, myth or legend?
While the name "Juan Valdez" may be relatively common in Latin America, the idol we know and love is actually the java equivalent of Paul Bunyan (joined by a donkey named Conchita instead of Babe the blue ox). That's right -- Señor Valdez is the long-standing mascot of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, whom he has represented since being developed by an advertising firm in 1959.
Read more about the world's favorite coffee farmer after the jump.
A meditative-looking Valdez on the side of a coffee bag typically denotes the beans' status as 100% Colombian, though the famous farmer has almost come to epitomize coffee in general since his debut as the stand-in for his nation's more than 550,000 cafeteros, or coffee producers. Originally portrayed by New York actor José F. Duval, Valdez was eventually played by farmer Carlos Sánchez, who served in the role from 1969 until 2006, when he passed the straw hat to Carlos Castaneda.
Thanks to the seemingly ubiquitousness of this one man and his donkey, the coffee-consuming public has become more aware of the people behind many of the world's coffees and the effort that goes into planting, tending to, picking and sorting all over the globe.
And for that, I say let's raise a mug in salúd to Señor Valdez next time we pour ourselves a fine Colombian brew -- or any brew, for that matter.
Erin Meister trains baristas for North Carolina-based Counter Culture Coffee and sporadically maintains the blog Meet the Press Pot from her home in New York City. This is part of a series for the caffeine-addicted.