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Cuba's Enduring Coffee Culture

Cuba’s Enduring Coffee CultureCoffee holds a special place in Cuban culture, be it in Havana or in the Cuban diaspora of Miami or New York.  In all of these places, a mid-afternoon Cafe Cubano is the essential fuel that energizes these vibrant communities. 

Coffee has played an important role in Cuba since the 18th century, when it was brought to the island by colonials who recognized the suitability of the climate in the eastern Sierra Maestra Mountains for cultivating dark roast Arabica varietals.  After the Haitian revolution of 1790, French farmers swelled the numbers of Cuban coffee growers and Cuba to become a significant exporter of coffee to important European markets.

This robust trade continued into the 1950s when Cuba exported 20,000 metric tons of coffee a year.  After the revolution of 1956, coffee exports shifted to Eastern Bloc countries, but volume waned after the breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. 

Despite the gradual decline of the scale of coffee growing, coffee culture remains an integral part of Cuban life both on the island and for the 1.4 million Cuban emigrants in the United States.  Thanks in large measure to the latter group, a Cafe Cubano or “Cafecito” is only slightly less popular than the ubiquitous cappuccinos and lattes that dominate global coffee culture.  The signature sweet, almost syrupy coffee with its trademark head of crema floating on the top of the thick, dark brew is a heady pick-me-up which is easy to make at home.

Cafe Cubano Recipe

• A stove-top espresso “moka” pot with a chamber below, a coffee filter container in between and a chamber above.
• A smaller metal pitcher

• dark roast coffee, ground to a fine espresso grain
• 1 tablespoon of brown Demerara sugar for each ½-cup of coffee your coffee maker can produce.
• cold water

• Fill the moka pot chamber with cold water up to the line indicated
• Pack the espresso in the coffee container and screw on the top.  Place on the stovetop over medium high heat and keep an eye on it so that you can catch the first syrupy drops of coffee.
• Place the sugar in the smaller metal pitcher, then decant the first few teaspoons of coffee which bubble up from the coffee pot into the pitcher with the sugar.
• Beat vigorously with a metal spoon until the sugar and coffee blend into a sticky paste.  This is the essential “espumita” that gives Cafe Cubano its signature crema and taste.
• Return the coffee pot to the heat to finish brewing. 
• Pour the coffee into the espumita and stir to combine. 
• Serve immediately in small demitasse cups.

Alexander+Roberts are opening up the world of Cuban culture and history to Americans with a range of curated itineraries to suit every taste.  Speak to one of our knowledgeable reservation agents about trips such as Classic Cuba.

Posted: 12/14/2015 2:27:06 PM by Alexander + Roberts