What is Cuban Coffee, Anyway?

Cuban coffee is part of the daily life of any true Miamian. You haven’t really experienced the city if you haven’t tried one (or many). If you’ve found yourself at the local “ventanita”, feeling overwhelmed and confused by the specifics of it all, read on.

Cuban Coffee can be ordered in only 4 styles. The most traditional, by far, is black with sugar. You really don’t have to specify the sugar, as that’s a given. Cuban coffee has sugar, that’s part of the deal. You can ask for less sugar, but I can guarantee your idea of “less sugar” is NOT the barista’s idea, but try it out for fun.

  1. Colada: A 4oz cup of sweet black cuban coffee served with little cups known as “tacitas”. The cups indicated it is meant to be shared, as a colada has 4-6 shots of Cuban espresso, making it suitable for 4-6 people.
  2. Cafecito: A 2oz cup of sweet black cuban coffee for 1 person to drink.
  3. Cortadito: Cuba’s answer to an Italian Macchiato. 2oz of sweet coffee mixed with equal parts milk.
  4. Cafe con Leche: A latte. Sweet. Cuban style.

Decaf coffee is not an option!
Plant-based milks are not an option.!
(Unless you have stumbled upon a very fancy Cuban cafe, the odds that a macademia-pistachio mylk blend are slim to none. If you don’t take lactose, drink the coffee black.)

Why does Cuban coffee have so much sugar? It goes back to good ol’ communism. When the ration system started, Cubans were allotted 4oz of coffee grounds per person, FOR A MONTH. Ain’t happenin’. So, they got innovative. Similar to the USSR at the time or chicory coffee in Louisiana, Cubans ground up chick peas or lentils to mix with the grounds so the supply would last longer. And it did, but with the aftertaste of garbanzo. So, the taste had to be covered up and it was. With sugar! Lots of it.

Sugar also replaces milk. To get the sense of frothy milk without the actual product, they would (and still do) whip a few drops of coffee with sugar to create “espuma”. In English, this means “foam”. That foam had the texture of milk. The practice stuck, and we still see it being done to this day.

Cuban coffee is strong. Really strong. Enjoy at your own risk!

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