What is Cuban coffee: Essence, History and Types


What is Cuban coffee: Cuban coffee, known for its robust flavor and cultural significance, is more than just a beverage—it’s a cherished tradition deeply woven into the fabric of Cuban life. This potent brew, often enjoyed in social settings, epitomizes the vibrant spirit of Cuba. Let’s delve into what makes Cuban coffee unique, its history, preparation methods, and its role in Cuban culture.

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What is Cuban coffee: Essence, History and Types

The Essence of Cuban Coffee

Cuban coffee is distinguished by its strong, sweet flavor and rich aroma. This coffee is typically made from dark roasted beans, which contribute to its intense, full-bodied taste. The defining characteristic, however, is the use of sugar, which is mixed with the coffee grounds before brewing. This process creates a thick, sweet syrup called “espuma” or “crema,” resulting in a distinctive coffee experience.

History and Cultural Significance

The history of Cuban coffee dates back to the mid-18th century when coffee plants were first introduced to the island. By the 19th century, Cuba had become one of the world’s largest coffee producers. Despite various economic challenges over the years, coffee remains a crucial part of Cuban identity and daily life.

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In Cuba, coffee is not merely a morning pick-me-up; it’s a social ritual. It’s customary to offer visitors a cup of coffee, and many social interactions revolve around this cherished beverage. This tradition underscores the communal nature of Cuban society, where hospitality and camaraderie are highly valued.

Types of Cuban Coffee

Cuban coffee can be enjoyed in several forms, each with its unique preparation and flavor profile:

  1. Cafecito (Cuban Espresso):
    • Description: A small, potent shot of espresso sweetened with espuma.
    • Preparation: Sugar is beaten with the first few drops of brewed coffee to create a frothy, sweet crema, which is then mixed with the rest of the coffee.
  2. Colada:
    • Description: A larger batch of cafecito, typically served in a shared container.
    • Preparation: Intended for sharing, colada is served with smaller cups to distribute among friends or colleagues.
  3. Café con Leche:
    • Description: Coffee with milk, similar to a latte but sweeter and richer.
    • Preparation: Strong Cuban espresso is mixed with steamed milk, often served with toasted bread or pastries for breakfast.
  4. Cortadito:
    • Description: A slightly larger shot of espresso with a small amount of steamed milk.
    • Preparation: Combines the strong flavor of cafecito with the smoothness of milk, balancing the bitterness of the coffee with creamy sweetness.

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Brewing Cuban Coffee: The Process

The traditional method of brewing Cuban coffee involves using a stovetop espresso maker, known as a Moka pot. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Ingredients:
    • Dark roasted coffee beans (finely ground)
    • Sugar
  2. Equipment:
    • Moka pot
    • Mixing container for espuma
  3. Steps:
    1. Fill the bottom chamber of the Moka pot with water.
    2. Add finely ground coffee to the filter basket, leveling it off without packing it tightly.
    3. Assemble the Moka pot and place it on the stove over medium heat.
    4. As soon as the first few drops of coffee emerge, remove them and mix vigorously with sugar in a separate container to create the espuma.
    5. Once the rest of the coffee has brewed, pour it over the espuma and stir well.

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Cuban Coffee by the Numbers

To understand Cuban coffee’s cultural and economic impact, let’s look at some statistics:

Metric Value
Average Annual Coffee Consumption per Capita (Cuba) 4.2 kg (2021)
Cuba’s Rank in Global Coffee Production (2019) 35th
Average Coffee Farm Size (Cuba) 3 hectares
Percentage of Coffee Exported 20%
Coffee Production Areas Sierra Maestra, Escambray Mountains

Economic Impact

Cuba’s coffee industry, while not as dominant as it once was, still plays a vital role in the economy. The country produces approximately 8,000 tons of coffee annually, with much of it consumed domestically. Export markets include Europe, Japan, and Canada, with organic and high-quality beans fetching premium prices.

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The Future of Cuban Coffee

Despite facing challenges such as outdated farming techniques and economic embargoes, the future of Cuban coffee looks promising. Efforts are underway to modernize cultivation practices and improve yields. Additionally, the global interest in specialty and organic coffee presents new opportunities for Cuban farmers to reach niche markets.


Cuban coffee is more than just a drink—it’s a symbol of the island’s rich cultural heritage and a daily ritual that brings people together. Whether enjoyed as a strong cafecito, a shared colada, or a creamy café con leche, Cuban coffee offers a unique taste of Cuban life. As Cuba continues to evolve, its coffee traditions remain a vibrant and enduring part of its identity.


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