Cuban Coffee

With it’s skyrocketing popularity, Cuban Coffee can be seen almost everywhere you look nowadays. Go to your local market, you’ll see Cuban coffee with fancy packing. Coffee shop just around the corner probably has signs with cool Cubano coffee ads on it. Even your old and boring coworker Dave is telling you about the new and delicious coffee he’s found.

Although it is that ubiquitous, do we know what it actually is?

No worries ladies and gentleman, we are here to help you. We’ve explained its rich past and controversial present, what makes it unique and how to make a perfect Cuban coffee.

Take your coffee, buckle up, and let’s start our journey!

What Is Cuban Coffee?

cuban coffee
“Cuban Coffee” by Rob.Bertholf is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Cuban Coffee, to put it simply, is basically made by sweetening an espresso shot by adding demerara sugar while brewing. What’s more, a well-made Cuban coffee has a thick and unique layer of microfoam on top of it. This microfoam, however, is different from the other espresso drinks as it’s made from sugar instead of milk and therefore sweeter.

Best time to drink a delicious Cuban coffee is after dinner, when you’re full and need something sweet. Think Cuban coffee as the cherry on the cake; it makes your dinner experience much more delightful.

In addition, you might see it as “Café Cubano”, “Cafecito” or “Cubano Coffee”. Don’t worry, they all represent the same thing. Yet, when it comes to defining the Cuban coffee, we have a problem. The term Cuban coffee refers to all coffee variations that are made in the country of Cuba but in the meantime what we described in the first paragraph is also called Cuban coffee. Although names are the same, ours is just a variation of Cuban coffees.

Let’s look at the other variations of this refreshing coffee.

Variations

Although these drinks are variations of it, they can also be referred to as Cuban coffee. Confusing, isn’t it?

Café Con Leche

cafe con leche
“Café con leche – Milchkaffee ( #CC )” by marfis75 is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

This one might be one of the most popular variations of the traditional Cuban coffee, and it is almost the same with the Cafecito. Café Con Leche is served with a cup of milk next to it. While Cortadito comes with the milk added in it, you are pouring the milk into Café Con Leche.

Cortadito

cortadito
“Cane a Sucre cortadito and almond croissant” by miamism is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

There is only one difference between Cortadito and your regular Cafecito; this one has milk in it. To weaken its strong flavor, baristas add a few tablespoons of hot milk in it. It is my go-to drink when I want a Cuban coffee because it’s not as strong as Cafecito and therefore can be drunk easily.

Colada

tacita"
“Tacita de café” by jtoledo is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The perfect drink for those who love sharing. What makes Colada unique is its serving style. Colada comes with a quite larger serving and some small cups called “tacitas”. If you go to your local coffee shop as a big group of friends and do not want to order separate coffees, Colada might be the perfect option for you.

History

You can’t understand the nation of Cuba without knowing about their coffee. Cuban coffee has a crucial place in the nation’s culture. Cuba’s music and cinema industry, literature and even their politics has traces of their coffee in them. To put it simply, Cuban coffee is one of the best ways to understand the country and the people.

As we’ve mentioned before, Cafecito has a long and rich history that goes all the way back to the 18th century. Jose Gelabart and a bunch of farmers brought the coffee when they were escaping from the Haiti Revolution.

Cuban coffee culture saw its peak when the French taught the farmers the latest cultivation, growing and planting techniques. Those were the golden days of the Cuban coffee and Cuba was one of the coffee exportation leaders of the world with over twenty-five thousand tons annually.

cuban coffee
“Cuban coffee” by samuelnabi is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Unfortunately, all the good times have an end and Cuba wasn’t an exception. When Fidel Castro and his ideology came to power in the 1960s, coffee production and exportation saw an extreme decline in numbers as there were close to zero incentives for coffee farmers. The coffee drought paved the way for innovative solutions such as making coffee with roasted and ground chickpeas.

Like the industry wasn’t in a bad condition, the US issued an embargo in 1962. The embargo banned all the imports from the country, including the esteemed coffee. As a result, the industry took a great hit and even a greater one came when the USSR fell, the biggest ally of Cuba and biggest buyer of the coffees.

These trying times are now called “The Great Recession” and just one of the examples of how the Cuban people were forged in fire; when it comes to endurance and strength, there are few countries that can compete with Cuba.

Current State of Cuban Coffee

Although Cuban coffee had witnessed a similar crisis in 2007, things are looking good for them now. After the coffee crisis, the industry showed signs of recovery and rise. Third wave coffee shops that made their coffee from Cuban coffee beans started to open all over the country and promoted the coffee culture even more.

Yet, the country is now facing a different problem: climate change. Due to climate change and related effects, the land where one can harvest coffee has declined by 142.000 hectares (from 170.000 in 1961 to 28.000 in 2013). This massive decline poses a great threat to the future of coffee in Cuba and if the world doesn’t take action against the climate crisis right now, Cuba might lose its coffee industry.

What Makes Cuban Coffee So Good?

Flavor

When the eccentric beans, heated sugar, and the espuma come together, they create a unique flavored and bitter coffee with subtle sweet flavor notes in it. If you are a fan of bitter coffees but want some sweetness in it too, go for Cuban coffee. You won’t be disappointed.

Espuma

Yes, Cuban coffee has a kind of crema on top of it, but it’s not actually what you think. It is called espumita or espuma, and it makes Cuban coffee extraordinary. It sits on top of the coffee and made by mixing small amounts of sugar and espresso.

While espresso variations cremas tend to leave a rather acidic aftertaste behind, espuma will leave you with sweet and delightful flavor notes.

How to Make Cuban Coffee

Alright, enough with the lesson. Now, let’s make a delicious Cuban coffee.

We usually use a stovetop espresso maker to make one but a moka pot can work well as well. You’ll also need freshly ground coffee beans. Arabica beans work perfectly when making Cuban coffee but Robusta might be an option too; it depends on your own preference.

  1. Brew your coffee in a stovetop espresso maker by doing what the instruction on your coffee bag says.
  2. Take a glass measuring cup (at least 3 cup capacity recommended) and add sugar into it. Wait for your coffee to brew and then add 1 tablespoon of coffee to the measuring cup. After this step is done, continue with the brewing.
  3. Now, we will make espuma, the unique foam of Cuban coffee. By using a spoon, beat the sugar and espresso mixture until it becomes pale brown. It will take up to 3 minutes and have a foamy shape.
  4. Your coffee must be brewed by now, pour it to the measuring cup over espuma and in the meantime stir.
  5. Pour the mixture into separate demitasse espresso cups. Make sure that each espresso cup has crema on top of it. (you might want to use a spoon to take and add it.)
  6. Well done, you’ve made it. Now you can serve it and enjoy your company!

Wrapping Up

Personally, Cuban coffee is the most delightful cup of Joe I’ve drunk this year. I’ve enjoyed every sip of it and therefore I recommend you to drink it at least once. It’s hard to find coffees that have a rich background and distinctive flavors nowadays. Maybe it will be your favorite coffee too, who knows?

Complete Cuban Coffee Guide

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