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Coffee brands, from Mocha to Juan Valdez

Coffee brands: Mocha

One of the oldest established names in the coffee business is Mocha, a name found to this day in brands like Moca d’Or, where gold hints at excellence. There is also a type of chocolate called mocha that has some coffee in it.

Mocha is a port in Yemen, on the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen was the first country where Arabica coffee was brought from Ethiopia between 500 and 1,500. In Ethiopia it was, and is, a wild species, in Yemen it began to be cultivated and Mocha was the port from which the coffee was exported.

Yemen was invaded by the Ottoman Empire in 1517, which took control over coffee and banned its export. Dutch traders managed to obtain some plants that they took to a botanical garden in Holland in 1616, India and Sri Lanka in 1660, and Indonesia in 1690. At the beginning of the 18th century, the French brought coffee to the Caribbean and to the Island of Reunion, east of Madagascar. Reunion was called Bourbon back then, one of the varieties from Yemen. The other was Typica.

Coffee brands: Java

Java is one of the islands in the Indonesian archipelago, known as Dutch India in the days when the Dutch brought coffee to grow there. At first Arabica coffee, but when production was decimated by rust it was replaced by Robusta coffee from Congo in Central Africa and Liberica coffee from West Africa, which are more resistant to rust.

Some plantations continued to grow Arabica coffee in Java under conditions that allow the production of specialty coffee, which is the coffee known as Java. Since colonial times it was customary to make Java-Mocha blends.

Another inheritance from the colonial era is monsoon coffee, coffee that is left outdoors for up to 3 years, so that it develops a less acidic and mellow character, so that it resembles more the coffee that was drunk in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, when coffee took months or years to arrive by ship.

Some people used to call coffee in general Java, but nowadays it is not very common anymore. Java is now mostly associated with a computer language introduced in 1995, with a logo of a coffee-scented cup.

Coffee brands: Santos

The French who brought coffee to the Caribbean made Haiti the world’s leading coffee producer in the 18th century with plantations based on slave labour. When Haitian slaves rose up against the French in 1791 and made Haiti the first country freed from colonial power in the region, coffee production declined rapidly.

Other colonies in the Caribbean basin replaced Haiti as the main coffee-producing country. In 1830, the Caribbean produced 960 thousand bags, 38% of the world production of 2.5 million. By 1855 Brazil, where coffee arrived via the Dutch and French Guiana, assumed first place, never to leave it again. It produced an average of 2.7 million bags that year, 52% of the total. When at the end of the 19th century coffee production in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka, the second largest region, collapsed due to coffee leaf rust, Brazil replaced that volume and came to produce 73% of the total of 17 million bags in 1900.

The main Brazilian port for export was and continues to be Santos. The plantations were in the interior of the country and in Santos were the commissioners, who were in charge of obtaining financing and clients and exporting the coffee. Because of the weight that Brazil had acquired in coffee, Brazil became synonymous with coffee and Santos the best-known brand, which to date is widely used for the different grades of coffee, such as Santos 2/3 screen 17/18 Fine Cup and Santos 3/4 screen 14–16 Good Cup.

After the “coffee crash” due to a large oversupply of Brazilian coffee in 1881, the Coffee Exchange of New York was founded in 1882, to facilitate the future trading of Brazilian coffee. The original contract was replaced by the Santos “S” contract. For mild coffees, the Mild “M” contract was added. In 1986 both contracts were replaced by the current “C” contract. In 1917 Brazil created its own futures market the Bolsa Oficial de Café (Official Coffee Exchange) in Santos, which was later established in the Palacio do Café, inaugurated in 1922, now a museum.

Coffee brands: Juan Valdez

Coffee production in the new world was in colonial times largely a plantation model, based on slave labour. A truly revolutionary change started at the beginning of the 20th century, when the Colombian government began to promote the cultivation of coffee by small producers. Producers struggled to sustain themselves in a market characterised by cyclical overproduction, high price volatility and the impact of the First World War. In order to organise themselves better, the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros (National Federation of Coffee Growers) FNC was founded in 1927, which soon received ample fiscal resources and formed the National Coffee Fund.

Another thing the Colombian government did was decree in 1932 that all exported coffee had to bear the legend Café de Colombia or Producto de Colombia, which became a brand, competing with the fame of Brazilian coffee and the Santos brand. In 1958, FNC went a step further with an advertising campaign to promote the image of Colombian coffee among consumers, through a fictional character representing the coffee producer: Juan Valdez, with his mule Conchita, carrying coffee. Juan Valdez was not a coffee producer, but a Cuban actor named José Duval, later personified by Colombian painter and actor Carlos Sánchez. It was not until 2006 that FNC selected a real coffee producer as the face of Juan Valdez: Carlos Castañeda.

It was the first time that coffee from a country of origin was positioned as a brand. The campaign was designed by the advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach of the United States, to convince the American consumer that Colombian coffee has unique characteristics: climate, soil, altitude, varietals, way of harvesting and processing that give the good taste and aroma to Colombian coffee. The campaign was very successful, gaining a lot of recognition among consumers, who have since identified Colombia and Juan Valdez with high-quality coffee. This recognition allows Colombian coffee to be sold at a premium and is the reason why it has a differential of +4 on the New York futures market, while the other mild coffee-producing countries sell at level or even at a discount.

It also created controversy among other coffee origins that dispute the unique character of Colombian coffee and claim to produce very high-quality coffee as well. The Costa Rican ambassador to the United States made the joke “Juan Valdez drinks coffee from Costa Rica”, taken up as a slogan on t-shirts by Café Britt, which led to a legal dispute.

The image and power of the Juan Valdez brand is also used for Juan Valdez Café, a chain of coffee shops launched in 2002 by FNC. By 2020 the chain had 335 coffee shops in Colombia and 133 in 33 other countries.

Coffee brands: Regions and denomination of origin

Juan Valdez is a country brand; others go further to differentiate the origin in more geographical detail. Guatemala has been the first country to differentiate coffee production areas into regions with different profiles such as Highland Huehue (Huehuetenango), Rainforest Coban, etc. The aim is to show the consumer what impact varietals, microclimates, growing conditions and other factors have on the cup profile, flavour and aroma of coffee.

The regional profiles, with a good promotional campaign, become brands with differentiated prices, that is, premiums according to the preferences of the buyers. Before, different regions were already distinguished by their cup quality, such as Antigua Guatemala or Tarrazu Costa Rica, but without defining the profile of each region, thus adding value to coffee from all over the country.

If there is no regionalisation of the cup profiles of the entire country, one can do it by way of denomination of origin in which the specific characteristics of the coffee are defined in detail, which makes it different from other coffees, as they do with wines and spirits (Champagne, Cognac) and other products. The denomination of origin seal is protected, a guarantee of origin and quality. Café de Veracruz, Mexico and Café Marcala, Honduras, are among the first denominations of origin in coffee. One limitation of the denomination of origin is that the mark can only be used for coffee from that single origin and not in blends.

To differentiate oneself from the rest, one can go into more geographical detail, even at the community or farm level (estate coffee), with particular conditions, and at the producer level, due to the varietals they have and the way they grow and process coffee. This is mostly done for micro lots of specialty coffees.

To differentiate oneself in the market with the use of brands, it is important that the image and identity coincide. If there is inconsistency between the two, that is, if the flag does not hold the load, it does not work and all the money and effort that has been invested in creating the brand is wasted.

1) It seems that the government was inspired by the example of England, which tried to protect itself against competition from the German industry with the obligation to mark its products with “made in Germany”, appealing to the patriotism of the English. It was counterproductive, because “made in Germany” became a very strong brand, a guarantee of quality.

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