Meet Juan Valdez, the Face of Colombian Coffee

“Do you know Juan Valdez?” If you were watching TV in the 80s and 90s, you probably do.  Representing Colombian coffee and the small farmers who grow it, Juan Valdez is one of the best-known fictional characters in marketing history.

“Juan Valdez”, a mustachioed Colombian farmer, was created in 1958 to represent the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia. An association of over 500,000 small farmers from this country in South America, as opposed to plantation owners, the Federation wanted a way to differentiate their coffee.

Juan Valdez and Colombian Coffee

Juan Valdez at a promotional event.

Juan Valdez at a promotional event.

Specifically, the Federation wanted to be able to distinguish 100% Colombian coffee from that of blended coffee, which used beans from different countries.

By putting a face to the brand, they were able to personalize the coffee-buying experience and create brand recognition for a commodity product. As such, it was a groundbreaking in terms of marketing.

DDB, one of the most famous and influential ad agencies in the world, created the Juan Valdez ad campaign. This is the same agency that gave us the ground-breaking Volkswagen ads of the 60s, the Avis slogan “We Try Harder,” and even Little Mikey of Life cereal ads.

This legendary agency even plays a role in the series Mad Men, being frequently referenced as an envelope-pushing competitor to the show’s fictitious company.

This kind of advertising hasn’t come cheap: since 1960, The National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia has spent $600 million on branding.

Juan Valdez, Famous Worldwide

The character Juan Valdez, when he appears in television and print ads, generally is dressed in traditional Andean Colombian clothing, wearing a hat and poncho typical of the region’s attire.

He is also accompanied by his donkey Conchita and sacks of harvested coffee beans. Given the success of the character, the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia even changed its logo in 1981 to reflect the images of Juan and his donkey.

Juan has been placed in different situations throughout the years, depending on the purpose of the campaigns. While previously ads showed him picking coffee cherries by hand, modern-day ads often show him in the aisles of the supermarket, donkey in tow, with humorous results.

He is very popular and is one of the most famous Hispanic people.  The character has also received its share of parodies over the years, and even figured into the Jim Carrey movie Bruce Almighty.

The Real Juan Valdez

The “real” Juan Valdez has been portrayed by three people in the campaign’s history: José Duval, a Cuban-American opera singer turned actor; Carlos Sánchez, a Colombian coffee grower who had the role for over 30 years; and Carlos Castañeda, another Colombian coffee grower who took over in 2006.

Nowadays, there are even Juan Valdez coffee shops. Founded in 2002 with the rise of the gourmet coffee shop, there are now 300 worldwide. The uniqueness of these coffee shops is reflected on the varieties they offer, especially in the coffee shops located throughout Colombia.

Here in Manhattan, the Juan Valdez coffee shop I know doesn’t serve any maracuya or lulo coffee.  Somthing I can easily find in a Juan Valdez shop in my native Medellín.

If you want to enjoy a real Colombian coffee look for the Juan Valdez coffee brand also available in supermarkets around the world.

Do you know Juan Valdez? Tell us in the comments!

Food Festival of Mistura Peru: One of the Best in the World

If you pay attention to food trends, you’ll know that in recent years, Peruvian food has been exploding in popularity throughout Latin America and the rest of the world. Peru itself has also become a favorite travel destination for food lovers and for three years’ running has been named the World’s Leading Culinary Destination by the World Travel Awards.

Whether you are already a fan or are intrigued by the popularity of this unique South American cuisine, your best opportunity to try it is this September at the food festival Mistura of Peru in Lima.

History of Mistura Peru

Mistura, or mixture in Portuguese, is the largest food festival in South America and one of the largest in the world.

In 2014, over 400,000 people attended during the ten-day run. Some 30,000 of those were foreign tourists.

With over 200 food and drink stands and a market with some 1,300 people selling fruits, vegetables, and other raw ingredients, this food festival is a feast for the eyes, the nose, and the palate.

The APEGA (Sociedad Peruana de Gastronomía – Peruvian Gastronomy Society) organizes the event.

The festival started in 2008 as Perú Mucho Gusto, and in its first year it was able to attract some 23,000 visitors. Since then, each year the festival has grown both in scope and in number of attendees.

In recent years, Mistura has incorporated themes such as sustainability, nutrition, and biodiversity, with the intent of showing the many facets of Peruvian food and agriculture.

Tips for Attending Mistura Peru

Vendors at Mistura Food Festival in 2012.

Vendors at Mistura Food Festival in 2012.

Mistura Perú is held each September, with the date announced in the spring. Since it’s in Lima, travel to and from is as simple as an international flight. But it definitely takes planning.

In order to see everything – as well as to have room to try a number of dishes – you may want to visit the festival more than once.

Try going during the week, as weekends tend to be very crowded. For most food purchases, you have to buy “Mistura money,” so be sure to leave time for the lines – they can get heavy around lunchtime when locals visit the festival.

If you are headed all the way to Peru, don’t just make time for Machu Picchu.  You’ll also want to take the time to check out the fair’s schedule, as well as details of the Mundos (worlds), which are the different sections of the fair.

Past examples included Carretillas (pushcarts that sell street food), regional sections such as Del Sur (From the South), Andino (Andean) and Amazónico (Amazonian), and Dulces (Sweets).

What to Try at Mistura Peru

Food on offer runs the gamut: drinks like pisco, chilcano, and uvuchado; desserts including suspiro a la limeña, queso helado, and rafañote; and more exotic fare, such as cuy (guinea pig), anticuchos (beef heart), and frog milkshakes.

Beyond the opportunities to try Peruvian dishes, there are also activities at the festival like master classes, talks, cooking competitions, and even dance performances and concerts. So you will have lots to fill your time while you rest your stomach.

With some planning, a plane ticket, and an appetite, you’ll be on your way to one of the most unique culinary experiences on the planet.

Are you planning to go to Mistura or have you been? Tell us about it in the comments!

Seafood Soup Recipe

Colombian Coconut Seafood Chawder

I must admit, with this coconut seafood soup recipe from Colombia I may appear to be an expert chef, even though I am not one. Yet the preparation is simple and the ingredients are easy to obtain.

I used this cazuela de mariscos recipe for an especial occasion with my husband, and it was a total hit. Candles, wine, a green salad and this crustacean chowder were a perfect combination to have a date while enjoying Latin culture.

This recipe comes from the Pacific region of Colombia. The essential coconut milk keeps all the ingredients tender and perfectly tasting. The ideal is to serve the soup in coconut halves, but I know they maybe difficult to obtain in the U.S.

Coconut Seafood Soup Recipe or
Crustacean Chowder

This is the best seafood recipe I know about. It is courtesy of Colombian food expert Patricia McCausland from her book Secrets of Colombian Cooking published by Hippocrene Books.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup grated red bell pepper (grated on the large holes)
  • 2 pounds raw shrimp, cleaned and deveined
  • 1/2 pound raw squid rings, cleaned
  • 1/2pound piangua or clams, cleaned 1 1/2 fish bouillon cubes
  • 2 tablespoons garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon color or Sazón Goya with Saffron
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 cups coconut milk
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 11/2 tablespoons minced cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley

How to Prepare this Cazuela de Mariscos

1. In a large, heavy pot or caldero over medium-low heat, place the oil, onion, red pepper, seafood, bouillon cubes, garlic, color or saffron, salt, and pepper. Cook for 12 minutes.
2. Mix the coconut milk, milk and flour together to a smooth consistency. Add them to the pot; simmer over low heat for 15 minutes more.
3. Add the wine and simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Sprinkle with cilantro and parsley and serve.

Video at the top by Patricia McCausland

How to make Red Beans and Rice

Arroz con Frijoles Video

The wonderful smell of red beans and rice invades our home every time I make this simple recipe from South America, specifically from my native country of Colombia.

Many people ask me how to make delicious beans and rice, I simply give them this recipe I am sharing with you today. All the Ingredients in it are very easy to obtain at any ethnic aisle of a normal supermarket or grocery store.

The Main Tool Is Having the Best Pressure Cooker

The main tool to prepare this delicious food and many other Hispanic food recipes is a pressure cooker.

If you buy one I am sure you will be using it quite frequently to make your dishes in at least half the time you normally take to make the same recipe in a conventional pot.

A pressure cooker allows food to cook perfectly while keeping nutrients intact. For a dish like red beans and rice it is a blessing to have this tool since it ends up being a time and nutrients saver after soaking the beans overnight.

Main Secret for Perfect Red Beans and Rice

There is no doubt adding a whole green plantain and a generous sized carrot gives your red beans and rice recipe the perfect consistency. After cooking the beans with the entire plantain and carrot just take them out and blend them. The add the mix back to the soup.

Toxicity in Red Kidney Beans

Many people don’t know that many beans have a toxic compound that degrades when cooked at very high temperatures. Red kidney beans have a high concentration of “lectin phytohaemagglutinin,” a toxin many varieties of beans have.

Pressure cookers use very high temperatures to cook therefore degrading the toxin easily, instead slow cookers use low cooking temperatures that probably don’t degrade the toxin and can cause food poisoning.

In countries like Great Britain health authorities, specifically PHLS, recommends to soak your beans in water for 5 hours before you cook them to soften them and degrade the toxin easily.

As harmless as they may appear you should never eat beans without thoroughly cooking them at high temperatures of at least at a 100 degrees Celsius.



Why Are Beans So Nutritious and Healthy

Beans are rich in protein and high fiber that lowers cholesterol.

Another great advantage is that kidney beans because of its high fiber content prevent blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal, therefore many people with hypoglycemia and diabetes should eat kidney beans regularly.

Kidney beans are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber which helps decrease constipation and digestive disorders. Red beans and brown rice make a perfect match because they provide slow burning carbohydrates. Red beans also are rich in Iron which increases energy levels.

A Bit of History

Beans appear to have originated in Peru, from where many native indian traders spread them in their trading travels through Central America and South America. In the 15th century Spanish explorers returning home introduced kidney beans to Europe and from there they spread to Africa and Asia.

Beans and Rice


  • 1 pack – about 16-Oz or 2 cups of Cargamanto beans or red kidney beans
  • 1 red onion chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of Salt
  • 1 beef bouillon cube (if desired)
  • 1 big whole carrot
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 whole green plantain
  • 10 cups of water
  • 1 ripe tomato chopped (optional)

For preparation see video.

Video at the top by

Latin Christmas Foods in South America

Ahhh, the wonderful smell of Latin Christmas foods… Keep reading to find dishes, main appetizers, and desserts we use to celebrate not only “Nochebuena” but also throughout the Christmas season including the Epiphany on January 6 in Hispanic South America from Colombia to Argentina.

One thing I would like to clarify is that growing up in Colombia we learned that the American continent was one divided into three regions, North America which included Canada and the U.S., Central America from Mexico to Panama and South America from Colombia to Argentina. That is why I decided to call this article Latin Christmas Foods in South America.

In Colombia we love cooking with family, so we also make tamales (especially in the Atlantic Coast), serve pork leg accompanied with salad, and rice with vegetables. In the area close to Bogotá we serve “ajiaco” a traditional chicken soup made with more than 4 kinds of potatoes, served with capers and heavy cream.

Throughout the holiday we maintain in our homes “buñuelos” -fritters, “ojuelas” -fried corn dough with sugar that we eat with guava paste, hot chocolate, “natilla” -sweet custard.

During Christmas my mother used to make a dessert that combined colorful gelatins of different flavors with condensed milk.

For Christmas Eve Colombians make “postre de natas” a milky dessert that includes rum, “brevas con queso” the first fruit of the fig with cheese, and “flan” a dessert we make with condensed milk, eggs and vanilla.

Drinks include “sabajón” which is like eggnog and the typical “aguardiente” a drink we make from anise and that we drink in a shot. “ponche” is also very common and we sometimes make it without any alcohol so the children can enjoy it.

From Colombia to Argentina

Argentinian Asado

Argentinian Asado
by Irargerich

Ajiaco Bogotano Colombia

Ajiaco Bogotano Colombia
by Reindertot


by matthewf01

Hispanic Christmas foods in Venezuela include “hallacas” which are tamales made from a mixture of beef or pork, and other ingredients, such as raisins, olives, paprika, capers and bacon according to one of my readers: Reindertot.

Venezuelans also serve turkey with salad and cold vegetables, green herbs or fruits. Dessert anyone? Venezuelans serve black cake, sweet papaya, and sweet milk.

In Peru Christmas dinner features turkey or pig as the main dish and they serve it with a variety of salads, and of course the popular tamales. Fruit cake, hot chocolate, “panteón” -traditional cake, and apple pure are desserts.

In Argentina the tradition is to do “asado a la parrilla” or barbecue of any kinds of meat. The tradition calls for coal and patience to make a perfect “asado.” Some appetizers are “empanadas salteñas” which include peppers, onions, meat, hard boiled eggs, olives, and raisings.

Desserts vary also depending on the products of each country. The usage of vanilla, milk, cinnamon, coconut, and caramel make the main ingredients list for Hispanic Christmas desserts.

Overall Latin Christmas foods in South America are a delectable collection of home made foods that serve to reunite the families and to pass tradition from one generation to another.

Colombian Tamales Best Recipe for Tamal Tolimense

In Colombia there are many kinds of tamales depending on the region of the country you are talking about. This Colombian delicacy is mainly filled with rice or yellow corn, but there are also Colombians in the Pacific region who eat the most unique tamales by filling them with green plantain dough and coconut milk.

For many families making tamales is a tradition not only for Christmas but also for special occasions other than “Navidad.” There is competition among families who want theirs to be recognized as the one who makes “the best tamales in town.”

When preparing Colombian tamales I have heard of families that add “panela” -a sweet ingredient from sugar cane, in the dough, many add vinegar to make it “sancochado,” others swear by filling the tamales only with hen or “gallina” while the majority of people say it is a matter of preference.

Did you know the most sought after Colombian Tamales are from Tolima (a state in Colombia.) They are filled with hen, beef, pork, peas, carrots, rice and hard boiled eggs. It takes a lot of time and effort to prepare them because they have many ingredients, and each ingredient for the filling has to be made previously requiring different cooking times.

In Cauca state, Colombian tamales must have peanuts and “achiote” seeds from the Annatoo tree. “Achiote” has a mild, earthy flavor. In the capital region, “Bogotanos” eat tamales with hot chocolate, and in Chocó state, people eat them with ribs and rice.

Recipe for Tamal Tolimense


Tamal by dekker

Makes: 15


The specific leaf I recommend to wrap the Colombian tamales is the “hoja de plátano soasada.” This is a special leaf that comes from the plantain type called “cachaco” and grows in the south area of the department of Tolima. The “Pijao” Indians, who inhabit the region, started the cultivation of this plantain that continues to this day. But if you don’t have it use corn husks which are more available in the U.S.

  • 400gr of dried peas, soaked and cooked
  • 1/2 Lb of cooked rice
  • 400gr of white corn called “trillado or peto.” Leave it in water for 3 days. Throw away the water and make the corn dough in the food processor
  • 1 hen cut in pieces
  • 1 Lb of pork or “tocino” without the fat part cut in small pieces.
  • 2 Lb of cut pork ribs
  • Half Lb of sliced carrots
  • 2 Lb of uncooked potatoes peeled and diced
  • 4 hard boiled eggs cut in round slices
  • 1 Lb of scallions finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 Liters of broth (where you cooked the meat)
  • Salt, cumin, pepper and y saffron to taste
  • Plantain leafs “soasadas.” At least 15 big ones
  • String to tie them with
  • Season the hen with salt, pepper and cumin.
  • Cook the skin of the pork and the ribs in 2 1/2 liters of water for 20 minutes. Reserve the broth.
  • Make the “guiso” by mixing the onions, garlic and saffron frying them in the fat you removed from the pork. Mix the “guiso” with the rice, peas and corn dough. Let it sit for a while.
  • Prepare the leafs “soasadas” and greased. Put a bit of each ingredient in a bed of the corn dough. Place some corn dough on the top.
  • Make the tamales by picking up the corners and borders of the leafs tying them firmly on the top to avoid any water coming in contact with the tamale.
  • Cook them in low for 3 hours in the broth you put aside, covering them very well in a pot with a top. If necessary add more hot water.

Tamale Making Tools

Tamale Making TIP

If you want to make regular tamales and save some time you can use a traditional large steamer like the ones I recommend below. The best part is that they save lots of time. I can say that my favorite tamale steamers are made of stainless steel at a very good price. Using stainless steel guarantees efficient heating besides using a healthy material for making your tamales.

Colombian Food Recipes

Our cuisine is rich in flavors and influences depending on the area of the country the dishes are from.

Here I have included some of the most representative recipes from Colombia that you can make without spending an arm and a leg or having to go crazy finding the ingredients, yet preserving the authentic flavor of the dishes.

The majority of the recipes included here were given by our food expert Patricia McCausland, a Barranquillera chef and book author who lives in Panama. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

My favorite recipes are the cazuela de mariscos and the Ajiaco. The first one from the Atlantic coast and the second one from the Andes region.


Andes Region

Chicharrones / Pork Fritters
Sweet Corn Arepas

Atlantic Region

Brown Coconut Rice
Tamarind Balls
Egg-filled Arepas

Pacific Region

Crustacean Chowder / Cazuela de Mariscos
Lulo Cooler

Amazon and Oriental Plains

Chimichurri Herb Sauce

I hope you enjoy these easy to make recipes

Colombian Food Expert

A Moment in the Life of Colombian Food Expert Patricia McCausland

Meet Colombian food expert Patricia McCausland-Gallo, a practical Barranquillera, warm, and creative author of two of the most acclaimed books about Colombian cuisine and the usage of coffee as an ingredient: “Secrets of Colombian Cooking” and “Passion for Coffee.”

Hispanic Culture Online talked to Patricia about her work, and included here some of her greatest Colombian food recipes.

HCO: Who is Patricia McCausland and is your last name Colombian?

I am a mix of many places, my mother’s father was from Venezuela, my mother’s mother was from Italy, and my father’s side is Scottish. The McCausland last name is Scottish and Irish.  I have the happiness of the Italians, the black humor of the Scottish, but also the customs of “my Costeños,” (how we call the people from the Atlantic coast of Colombia.)

HCO: How did you start in the world of Colombian cooking?


Colombian Food Expert Patricia McCausland

My mother had a bakery at home, and in our house slept twelve women in a back room. They did all the pastry work. My mother did not let my sisters and I enter the kitchen, but I always found a way to get in.

My mom let me help her decorate cakes when I was 13 because she discovered that I was very good at drawing. I wish I had studied cooking, but at the time many parents thought that after graduating from a top high school, being a cook was not an option.

I studied food and nutrition in the U.S., and during my vacation time I accompanied my mom to Paris to take bakery perfecting courses. That is how my love for cooking started, it was always on the sweet side. The savory part started after living alone.

HCO: After all these years you continue with the theme of Colombian cooking, why not something else?

When I arrived in Cali (Colombia), everybody asked me: Why don’t you teach? I decided to do so. I am very practical and I learnt it from processing foods in college, in cafeterias. It thought me how to work in volume and preparation times, fast.

I started to teach how to prepare foods for entertaining, but at the time there was no Carrefour (a French grocery chain), therefore I had to use simple ingredients people could find anywhere.

People used to ask me: where are you? And I would say at the office, which meant at the supermarket trying new ingredients. I needed to be creative and sitting at home was not going to do it. This is how I started to work with Colombian ingredients.

HCO: How did you start writing about Colombian cooking?

When I moved to Panama after selling my business in Colombia. I wanted to write about what I had done and what I knew. I found a publisher to whom I presented several proposals for a book about Caribbean cooking. They told me they liked them but if it was mostly about Colombian cooking.

I spent a year coming and going to several places of Colombia where I shared time with real cooks in several restaurants to create the written recipes that could be made anywhere.

HCO: How did the idea of “Passion for Coffee” come alive?

When I finished the first book in 2004, the publisher started to ask me…where is the coffee? I replied that we did not cook with coffee. I also saw in a magazine information about how many stores Juan Valdez was going to open within the next ten years or so, and my husband suggested to write a book about coffee.

HCO: Which is the role of coffee in Colombian cuisine?

In Colombia we consume coffee in the mornings with milk or black, and that is about it. All the recipes I included in Passion for Coffee are my creations. My idea was to show how coffee can become an ingredient like chocolate and vanilla. I wanted to include coffee in the gastronomy.

When you use coffee in savory foods the taste you obtain is like having cooked the meals on the fire. A taste where you don’t exactly distinguish the flavor of coffee.

HCO: What has happened after Passion for Coffee?

In the past two years I worked for an English publisher on Colombian and Venezuelan cuisines in a series of books about South American cooking . Also, I just finished the Central and South American segment of the coming book Essentials of Latin Cooking for William Sonoma.

I am sure we will be hearing soon from Patricia McCausland. She told Hispanic Culture Online she can’t wait to start traveling to Colombian distant places to do the research for her new project about Colombian food.

Colombian Recipes by Colombian Food Expert!

The majority of the following recipes are from the book Secrets of Colombian Cooking. Hipocrenne Books, INC. Reproduced with Patricia McCausland’s permission. I will be posting the recipes very soon!

Andes Region

Chicharrones / Pork Fritters
Ajiaco by Marcela Hede
Sweet Corn Arepas

Atlantic Region

Brown Coconut Rice
Tamarind Balls
Egg-filled Arepas

Pacific Region

Crustacean Chowder / Cazuela de Mariscos
Lulo Cooler

Amazon and Oriental Plains

Chimichurri Herb Sauce