Starbucks made its much-anticipated debut in the country synonymous with coffee after decades of roasting Colombia’s Arabica beans for billions of java lovers the world over. The three-floor coffee house in Bogota is the first of 50 that the Seattle-based company plans to open here in the next five years. In a nod to the country’s proud coffee-growing tradition, it’s also the only one in the world to serve exclusively locally sourced coffee.
But will Colombians answer Starbucks’ siren call and ditch a popular local chain bearing the bushy-whiskered coffee farmer’s name? Colombia’s coffee federation, owner of the Juan Valdez chain, is outwardly welcoming the competition. It says the arrival of Starbucks will boost the market for gourmet java even if sales at its nearly 200 stores in Colombia take a hit over the short term. “There’s room in the market for us both,” said Alejandra Londono, head of international sales for the Colombian chain.