Juan Valdez Cafe Opens Wednesday: Private Tastings and Single Origin Coffees

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Downtown Miami's first Juan Valdez Cafe opens this Wednesday at 101 NE Second Ave. The coffee shop, which stars the fictional coffee grower in pictures and emblazoned on coffee mugs, features both blended and single origin coffees prepared in a variety of ways.

The cafe, one of which is located in Miami International Airport, is the first in the company's major expansion into the Florida market. Another shop is expected to open in a few weeks at 364 NE 1st Ave., with 60 stores planned for the Sunshine State in the next few years. There are currently 270 Juan Valdez Cafes open in 12 countries including Aruba; Bolivia; Chile; Ecuador; El Salvador; Spain; Kuwait; Malaysia; Mexico; Panama; Peru; South Korea, and the U.S.

See also: Panther Coffee to open in Coconut Grove

The shops were created by the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation and named after Juan Valdez, the federation's iconic figure. The cafes will sell only Colombian coffees, and will offer a variety of pastries and light bites.

At first thought, you might think the coffee shops are poised to compete directly with Seattle giant, Starbucks. But there are major differences in the two brands. Although the Juan Valdez cafe does offer cafe tables and WiFi (as important to coffee shops as fresh cream), there are no couches to sink into for an entire day and Juan Valdez Cafe has no soft mood lighting. What Juan Valdez Cafe does have that Starbucks lack, however, are serious experiences for coffee aficionados.

In addition to purchasing a cup of java on the go, customers can opt to have their coffee custom brewed table side, choosing their favorite single origin coffee and method. Guests can choose a siphon, hot or cold drip, or a Kyoto coffee maker, a giant, handmade beauty that sells for $1,000 and looks like a fixture in a mad scientist's lab.

The shop also offers private group cupping sessions, where a senior barista will take you through a tasting of several Colombian varietals

We were invited to one of the cupping sessions where Edgardo Texidor, the lead barista for Miami, led us through the process of sniffing and slurping three different coffees. Huila, grown in the middle regions of Colombia, is know for its balance and buttery texture. Antioquia, harvested near the west coast of the country, is subtle with citrus notes, while the Caribe Sierra Nevada, grown high in the mountains, was bold and striking.

Coffees range from under $3 for a cup to $16 for a single origin brewed via the Kyoto. Cupping sessions range from $12-20.

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