Ominous Signs: Juan Valdez Cafe, Seattle

Sometimes you just know with a coffee place. All my internal alarms were telling me that the Juan Valdez Cafe would not live up to my standards. Since people have asked me for my opinion on this place more than once, I figured I’d give it a try.

The Juan Valdez Cafe states they use 100% Colombian Coffee. Like I care. Almost every coffee-growing region is capable of growing quality coffee. The caliber of the drink I was soon to consume was foreshadowed by the silly name and the sidewalk sign. Notice in the photos below how if looks like they corrected the misspelling of Colombia. Maybe I’m imagining things. You be the judge.

Enough about the sign. How was the drink? My standard test is always an espresso. I feared the barista was going to over-pour the shot, so I asked that he pull the shot short. It didn’t matter.

Over-poured and bitter. It may appear that I had the flash on my camera for this shot. I assure you I didn’t. From the photo chart Crema! A Sign of Good Espresso, or a Symptom of Bad Espresso by SweetMarias, I am guessing that this espresso was under-extracted. I asked the barista if anything other than Colombian was in the espresso blend. Nope.

So this espresso had 3 things working against it:

  1. Over-poured.
  2. Under-extracted.
  3. 100% Colombian may be great for drip coffee, but this particular offering did not deliver as a single-origin espresso. It lacked the depth and flavor one expects from espresso.

The espresso was so tasteless, I only drank two sips (one while hot, the other after cooling) before handing it back to the barista. The Juan Valdez Cafe will not survive in Seattle. Stick to growing coffee. Leave espresso to the professionals.

UPDATE (Aug 7, 2009): The Juan Valdez Cafe Bites it in Seattle


Crema! A Sign of Good Espresso, or a Symptom of Bad Espresso – Photo chart from

Juan Valdez Cafe – From Wikipedia.

Juan Valdez Cafe – Official site in Spanish.


Add yours

  1. I’ve thought about returning bad coffee before, but usually I need the caffeine so I end up keeping it and then writing about it on my blog.

  2. Michael Allen Smith

    Jun 25, 2009 — 2:12 pm

    Having me return this espresso in Seattle would be like demanding a refund on a grade school performance of Peter Pan. I knew the risks. 🙂

  3. Brenda Billingham

    Jul 14, 2009 — 7:05 pm

    I was in Colombia just last week and had espresso at Juan Valdez cafes in both Cartagena and in Bogota. Both were prepared perfectly. Perhaps there is something wrong with your equipment and/or the capabilities of your baristas in Seattle.

  4. Michael Allen Smith

    Jul 14, 2009 — 9:31 pm

    I am interested in traveling to Colombia. If I get down there I will give JVC another try on their home turf. Thanks.

  5. I have been to Colombia numerous times and always get my coffee from Juan Valdez. I even bring back pounds! It is, by far, the best coffee anywhere!

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