History Of Cuban Coffee: From National Culture To The World Heritage

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Instead of saying good morning, Cubans will ask each other – “Have you already drunk a coffee today?”. Just with this question, you can understand the important role coffee plays in Cubans’ culture.

So, what are the secrets behind the success of this drink? If you’re an espresso addict wanting to find out the history of Cuban coffee, our sharing will give you much interesting info!

Cuban Coffee History – The Process Of Development

Foundations Phase Of Coffee In Cuba

The first coffee plants appeared in Cuba in the 1740s. Don José Antonia Gelabert was their biological father who brought these seeds from Santo Domingo and sown them in the suburbs of Havana. 

Although the new crop was quite popular, not many people knew it. When French coffee planters ran away from the revolution in Haiti and immigrated to this small piece of land, the planting and drinking of coffee were successful.

At that time, the Eastern-sided forest of this island was covered by the green color of trees. Humid temperature, fertile soil, and fresh air were the main factors creating the friendly living environment of coffee.

These immigrants knew this well, and that’s why they quickly built many plantations to focus and explore the potential of this plant. Nowadays, the massive majority of Cuban coffee still comes from this same region of the country.

Coffee Industry Empire

With the fertility of the soil and the talented hands of the growers, coffee plants quickly took Cuba to prominence as one of the region’s leading coffee producers and exporters. In the well-being period, the total number of coffee stores came up to around 150 stores to serve the demand for locals and tourists from overseas visiting.

Only within the 19th and 20th centuries, the total production for coffee exporting of Cuba was 18.500T per year. That was such an amazing index for the economy of an agricultural country! – And do you know which country imported the largest coffee amount from Cuba? It was a close brother – Spain.

Gradually, coffee seems to integrate into Cuba’s economics and drinking habits. They have coffee every day, even in the evening. This is considered the most flourishing stage of Cuban coffee.

Crisis Of The Shortage Material And The Way To Overcome

The glamour of this industry doesn’t last long, and then it fades away due to the restrictions of the Cuban Revolution, which bloomed in 1959. This event completely changed the coffee-planted economy of Cuba and the drinking habits of the residents here.

The government brought out a policy aiming to improve the food shortage, and the most unfortunate thing happened. The citizens were obliged to cut down a huge quantity of coffee trees instead of food plants. For this reason, every Cuban could only use 4 ounces of coffee per day.

Luckily, they didn’t give them up and thought of many ways to save and maintain this exquisite pleasure. They started getting used to drinking coffee in smaller cups.

Yet, this empire was rehabilitated step by step with more than 92% of yield after the Great Recession period. Especially when America abrogated the trade barrier with Cuba in 2016, Americans in particular and people worldwide, in general, could finally enjoy the real Cuban coffee.

4 Iconic Variations

Cuban coffee has many variations but shares the same origin being produced from espresso. Below are four typical kinds we would like to share with you.

Buchi 

Buchi is the most signature beverage of Cuba. Cubans serve this drink in a tiny cup covered with a layer of azuquita. This thick foam is the whipped combination of coffee and sugar. Even in the midst of summer, people prefer ordering a hot buchi for themselves.

Café con Leche

Café con Leche means “coffee with milk” in English. This latte is quite similar to Italian cappuccino. By combining espresso and whole dairy milk, they can make a cup of coffee with a layer of scalded milk covered and a bold flavor.

Cortadito

If Italians have macchiatos, then Cubans have cortaditos. Cortadito or cortado is a mix of original espresso, steamed milk, and a sprinkle of sugar. With the milk addition, the bitter flavor of coffee softens without any taste loss. For those who don’t want to use sugar, milk is the better replacement.

Colada 

When it comes to Colada, it is considered one of the exclusive sorts of Cuban coffee. The way they drink it is also distinctive. They brew coffee into multiple shots and share them. This is the original Cuban-style drinking manner.

How To Make Cuban Coffee At Home?

The first step you need to do is fill the chamber with water and the filtered tray with café. Let’s pour the amount of water into the bottom chamber until it reaches the safety valve, about 345gr. Then, take sufficient quantities of coffee grounds to put in. And don’t press too tight but just smooth the surface of the grounds slightly with your finger.

Next, put the funnel into the bottom chamber and screw it to connect with the upper equipment. After that, set it on the stove at medium temperature. 

When the first spit of espresso drops on the pot, it’s time to enjoy your results. Now, give into the cup around 1 tsp of sugar and stir quickly! You will get a high-quality drink with no difference from drinking at a Cuban coffee store at all.

What Makes Cuban Coffee Stand Out?

Cuban espresso’s first difference from the others is golden-brown foam crema – also known as “espuma” or “espumita.”

What’s more special? Traditional Cuban coffee is a mixture of two superior beans (Robusta and Arabica). So, how do Cubans keep their original flavor during the coffee-making process? The biggest secret lies in a special brewing item called “Moka” pot.

In the usual way, everyone will pour the boiled water into coffee grounds stored in a filter tray and wait for the coffee liquid to fall into your glass. With uniquely designed Moka, this process happens in contrast.

Evaporating steam from boiled water will permeant through coffee grounds and then push the coffee on the top of the pot. This way, the flavor of the coffee will be a little stronger and not leave the sediments.

Aside from that, this coffee will add natural brown sugar before serving instead of putting it on the table for the user’s demand. The bartenders will whip the thick syrupy mixture the first few drops. After that, pour it into the pot to mix the rest of the espresso. Hence, this drink has been slightly thicker than any others.

Final Thoughts

In short, it’s no exaggeration to say that coffee somehow fills the Cuban’s hearts and becomes a part of their life. It is the spiritual culture and economy, contributing to introducing Cuba to the world.

That’s why the history of Cuban coffee is considered a world heritage that needs to be preserved, maintained, and continued to develop.

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Almost 20 years already spent committed to coffee and more than 3 years of experience as a barista at Starbucks. Madelyn Doyle graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutritional Science from the University of California and finished the Coffee Skills Program at the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA).