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HomeCoffeeThe Café Cubano is a robust espresso whipped with sugar.

The Café Cubano is a robust espresso whipped with sugar.

An elderly man sits on a bench, coffee in hand, in front of a mural depicting three men in Miami.

We be taught extra concerning the beverage—a staple in Miami—and its standard variations.


Cowl Photograph by Juno Jo through Unsplash

Anybody who has began their day with a cappuccino has skilled firsthand the affect of Italian tradition in shaping People’ style for espresso. Equally, cafés serving Vietnamese espresso have flourished in cities like Philadelphia, Kansas Metropolis, Mo., and Portland, Ore. Mexican-themed espresso retailers have popped up past the West Coast, whereas Yemeni coffeehouses serve their spiced espresso atop an open table-side flame to maintain it scorching throughout dialog. But Cuban espresso, because it has developed in Miami, stays for probably the most half a regional beverage that could be a little misunderstood by outsiders.

In a metropolis identified for its nightlife, seashore scenes alongside Ocean Avenue, and the worldwide crowd it attracts, Miami stands out amongst American cities for its distinctive vibe and power. Town additionally shines due to its connection to Cuban tradition—over half one million Cubans got here to Miami within the a long time after the Cuban Revolution, lots of them professionals and enterprise folks trying to find new alternatives. Consequently, a big a part of Miami’s soul marches to the beat of the Cuban American expertise, one thing that’s enhanced by that tradition’s treasure trove of meals and drinks.  

Historical past of Espresso in Cuba 

Jose Antonio Gelabert first introduced espresso crops to the island in 1748. The business flourished when French immigrants fleeing the Haitian Revolution introduced with them the data to determine a thriving community of espresso farms that developed within the jap a part of the island. Colonial economies had been depending on commerce to maintain themselves, so espresso discovered a spot alongside sugar and different necessary commodities. By the early 1800s, espresso surpassed sugar as the highest export in Cuba, sustaining a significant agricultural presence till the Cuban Revolution nationalized the nation’s espresso farms. The decline within the island’s espresso manufacturing after the revolution was worsened by the Soviet Union channeling a lot of the nation’s manufacturing to the export markets they managed. 

Distinctive Taste 

The Café Cubano is robust and particularly candy. Darkish, Italian-style roasts are brewed through stovetop on a Moka pot utilizing standard manufacturers akin to Pilon, Bustelo, and La Llave. The addition of demerara or another sugar at the beginning of the brewing course of is a key to creating a Café Cubano. After the primary drops of espresso start boiling up by means of the Moka pot or steaming out of an espresso machine, they’re vigorously overwhelmed into a few tablespoons of sugar—a way that belongs distinctively to Café Cubano—till a creamy foam referred to as espuma or espumita outcomes. Cubans in Miami imagine that the crema-like espumita is among the causes their espresso is so scrumptious. The excessive temperature of the espresso hydrolyzes the sucrose, producing a singular style that differs considerably from when the sugar is stirred in after the espresso has been brewed.  

The Ventanitas 

In Little Havana and different components of Miami, social life pulses round ventanitas (Spanish for “little home windows“). Café Cubano, pastries, and different mild meals are offered by means of these walk-up home windows in eating places and different companies. Neighborhood ventanitas set in movement the rituals of day by day life within the areas that encompass cafés or wherever the espresso is taken, whether or not that vacation spot is the workplace or the neighborhood magnificence salon.

Hungerlust’s “How Locals Drink Cuban Espresso in Miami” particulars the prevalence of ventanitas in Miami. The host claims: “9 a.m. Café Cubano comes round. 12 o’clock Café Cubano comes round. 3 p.m. Café Cubano comes round. Miami runs on Café Cubano.” Ventanitas are in all places all through Miami, and a few function across the clock. The attendants are pleasant and keen to assist espresso lovers get their repair for Café Cubano, whether or not they’re locals who’ve been within the neighborhood for generations or vacationers exploring Café Cubano for the primary time.  

Nicely-Identified Ventanitas

Felipe Valls Sr., a well-known restaurateur/patriarch of Miami’s Cuban group, designed and put in the primary ventanitas at his eating places after immigrating from Cuba to Miami within the Sixties. Two of his flagship eating places, Cafe Versailles and La Carreta, are at this time landmark locations the place Cuban People collect to get pleasure from good food and drinks, vigorous scenes dropped at bear by the presence of the Café Cubano.  

A Moka Pot is a stovetop brewing device similar to a percolator, and is used to make Cuban style coffee.
 Café Cubano at house begins with a Moka pot and standard store-bought espresso manufacturers.
Photograph by Thanos Amoutzias through Unsplash.

I needed to know extra concerning the position that Café Cubano performs within the lives of Miamians, so I reached out to Nayelis Delisle, proprietor of Suite Habana Café in Miami’s trendy Wynwood Arts District. “Cafe Cubano is among the roots round which Miami’s Cuban group sprouted and continues to flourish to today,” Nayelis says. The Café Cubano in Miami grew out of the necessity for group members to have a spot to speak about life or what was happening again house in Cuba—conversations that after came about across the espresso carts on the streets of Havana. 

Listed here are the 4 forms of Café Cubano, all variations of the unique recipe that makes use of darkish, Italian-style roasts and espumita to provide a espresso fashion that’s uniquely Cuban American.

The Colada 

The mom of all Cafe Cubano in Miami is undoubtedly the colada. A colada ordered by means of a ventanita is usually made utilizing an espresso machine. The whipping of the primary few drops of espresso into sugar occurs proper on the supply, often with the assistance of a small pitcher. Prized for its espumita, a colada is extra-strong, candy, and meant to be shared. A colada is usually served in a 12-ounce styrofoam cup and accompanied by half a dozen tiny cups that make the duty of sharing the favored drink compulsory. The intriguing a part of a colada, past its tremendous low worth and the truth that the contents of a single styrofoam cup are sufficient to present six folks a caffeine increase, lies in what it does for enabling camaraderie. The sharing of a colada is an invite to step away from the trials of life and have interaction in dialog. The colada breathes life into the group and is thought to be quintessentially Cuban American. 

A cafecito in a clear glass espresso cup and saucer sits atop a wooden surface.
A cafecito thick with sugar foam is an effective way to clean down a great meal.
Photograph by nitin pariyar on Unsplash.

The Cafecito 

The cafecito is the mini-me of the colada, that includes the identical daring espresso, sugary sweetness, and espumita. A cafecito, nonetheless, is served individually in a demitasse, very like a shot of normal espresso could be provided elsewhere. It’s mentioned that no good lunch or dinner is ever full and not using a cafecito. The cafecito provides a extra solitary expertise than sharing a colada with family and friends, however the identical scrumptious power increase makes the cafecito a becoming various. Curiously, some locals prefer to calm down on the intersection of two of Cuba’s most iconic merchandise: espresso and cigars. They dip the tip of their cigars into their cafecito to taste their cigars with the sweetness of Café Cubano.   

The Cortadito 

The cortadito, which suggests ”little cortado” in Spanish, is well-known exterior of the Café Cubano. The cortado originated within the Basque area of Spain, and it has gained recognition everywhere in the world throughout the previous few a long time. The cortado can be identified by varied names such because the Gibraltar, noisette, and piccolo. The defining attribute behind the cortado is similar in Miami as it’s in different locales—an equal stability of milk and espresso, which renders a taste base that guarantees the perfect of each worlds. Nevertheless, the sweetness and approach used to whip the primary few drops of espresso right into a sugary foam make the cafecito dissimilar to the cortados which have lately exploded in recognition all through the remainder of the world. 

A barista pours steamed milk from a metal pitcher into a demitasse glass half filled with espresso to make a café con leche.
Café con leche is as easy to make as it’s scrumptious. Photograph by Zoe through Unsplash.

Café Con Leche  

Café con leche merely means ”espresso with milk.” This standard drink is the equal of a latte. It’s a favourite of children amongst Cuban American households and people who don’t essentially choose the daring style of espresso by itself. Some folks choose to have their café con leche in a single cup like a conventional latte, whereas others choose to maintain issues separate. For some, café con leche goes down higher if Café Cubano is served in a single glass and the steamed milk in one other. Whichever model is chosen, cafe con leche makes for an excellent alternative to attempt Cuban pastries or pastelitos akin to quesitos, that are stuffed with sweetened cream cheese.


Eddie P. Gomez (he/him) is a contract author primarily based in Modesto, Calif. When he isn’t substitute instructing kindergarten courses, he wanders from metropolis to metropolis, perfecting the artwork of the meals and low journey.


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