Cuban Coffee 101

Cuban Coffee 101

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Cuban Coffee 101

If we were to compile a list of the best countries in the world for coffee lovers, Cuba would certainly make the grade. Cuba’s earliest coffee plantations are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the drink is an integral part of the country’s national identity.

Azamara is calling on Havana, Cuba in 2017, and we can’t wait to enjoy some authentic Cuban coffee while there!

An aerial view of Plaza Vieja in Havana, Cuba
At Plaza Vieja in Havana, Cuba, you'll find several cafes, restaurants, and even a microbrewery.

What is Cuban coffee?

Café Cubano is a staple of Cuban cuisine, and an important social aspect of Cuban culture. This traditional drink is an espresso made with dark roasts. What makes it unique is the addition of demerara sugar to the espresso as it is being brewed, rather than at the table.

Demerara sugar is a light brown, partially refined cane sugar. When it’s added to the espresso during the coffee-making process, the heat causes it to hydrolyze. This results in a sweeter taste than Italian espresso.

Café Cubano, an espresso made with dark roasts

What is Cuban coffee culture like?

Almost every Cuban home has a moka pot (a type of stovetop espresso brewer), used to brew Café Cubano at home. In Cuban homes, it is not just etiquette to offer a guest a cup of coffee – visiting neighbors, friends, and family, and enjoying a lovingly prepared cup of coffee (and maybe a little chisme, or neighborhood gossip) is part of the fabric of society. In Cuba, coffee is not just about beans and caffeine, it’s about friendship and conversation.

Where is Cuban coffee sold?

Café Cubano is sold at cafecitos, or coffee shops, and ventanillas. Ventanillas are people’s homes where coffee is sold through windows opened up to the street. In the morning, you’ll see young children purchasing coffee from ventanillas to bring home to their parents.

A woman in the doorway of a Ventanillas, a home where coffee is sold to the street.

When is Cuban coffee enjoyed?

Traditionally, Cubans enjoy Café Cubano in the morning, after meals, or in the mid-afternoon with a cigar. It’s often served with a glass of water. Some say the water is to cleanse your palate before drinking the coffee, and others say it’s to dilute the coffee in your digestive system. Some purists disagree, and think drinking water after enjoying your coffee is unappreciative. One thing is for certain: coffee is taken seriously in Cuba!

A Cuban man smoking a cigar

How do you make Cuban coffee?

To make Café Cubano, you’ll need a stovetop or automatic espresso maker, and beans. Try to find Cuban-style coffee if possible. Otherwise, select dark roast espresso beans.

How to Make Café Cubano in Five Easy Steps Step One: Begin brewing your espresso, as per the stovetop or automatic espresso maker instructions. Step Two: Add raw sugar to a measuring cup, using half a tablespoon of sugar for each demitasse cup you plan on making. Use more, if you prefer a sweeter drink. Step Three: Add a little of the brewed espresso to the sugar and quickly stir, creating a frothy espuma. You cannot stir it too much, so err on the side of caution and stir, stir, stir. Step Four: Slowly pour the rest of the coffee over the espuma, stirring to make sure all the sugar dissolves. A thin layer of foam should float to the top. Step Five: Pour into demitasse espresso cups, carefully topping each with foam, and serve immediately.

Now you're all set to make your own Café Cubano at home - or better yet, join us for a coffee in Cuba!

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