Today, you can find a coffee shop on every corner in cities worldwide. Well, coffee has infatuated people for many years and at the top of the list is the Cuban coffee bean variety. For more than 200 years, Cuba has been growing both the Robusta and Arabica coffee bean varieties (Arabica vs Robusta Coffee Beans – What Is the Difference?).
It all started with Jose Antonio Gelabert and French Farmers who introduced the growing and cultivation of coffee to the Cubans. During its peak, Cuba was exporting over 20,000 tons of coffee each year.
However, the rise of Fidel Castro and the nationalization of coffee production resulted in a sharp decline. This created a shortage of coffee. Fortunately, Cuban coffee is a signature drink in Cuba, Miami, Tampa, Florida Keys, and other cities.
So, what makes Cuban coffee different?
What Makes Cuban Coffee Different?
In the 18th century, Cuba grew both Arabica and Robusta coffee bean varieties. But today, they mostly grow the Arabica variety. Also known as Coffea arabica, it’s believed to be the first species of coffee to ever be cultivated. As the dominant cultivar, it represents more than 60% of the coffee grown and produced globally.
What is so special about Arabica coffee? First and foremost, it tastes better than other coffee bean varieties. As the most widely praised, Arabica coffee is sweeter and has a pronounced acidity.
The coffee bean variety has plenty of nuanced flavors. While it does not have a heavy body, it’s delicious and not too intense. As such, more people prefer Arabica coffee from Cuba than other varieties.
Arabica coffee does not like arid climates and frost. Instead, the coffee species needs lots of humidity and warm temperatures. In Cuba, Arabica coffee is typically grown in the eastern mountainous region of Sierra Maestra.
The region has humus reddish-brown soils coupled with excellent climatic conditions. The Escambray Mountain regions in Cuba are also a major producer of the Arabica coffee bean variety. These protected areas are currently dedicated to growing organic coffee. This is another reason why Cuban coffee is different from other coffee species.
Cuban coffee has a distinctive look and strong taste. During brewing, a raw type of brown sugar called demerara sugar is commonly used. The result is a thicker coffee drink.
Lastly, Cuban coffee is twice as strong as regular American coffee. When prepared, the result is a strong and slightly syrupy brew with a captivating aroma. This richness comes from a special roasting formula.
Best Cuban Coffee Brands
The following are the best Cuban coffee brands.
Cubita is Cuba’s most flavorful organic coffee. Made from 100% Arabica coffee beans grown in coffee farms of the Sierra Maestra Mountains, it’s hand-picked by local farmers.
They then sun dry the coffee beans at the source before transporting them to Havana where they’re roasted before export. As an all-exclusive Cuban product, the coffee has a bold and strong profile with hints of caramel and smokiness. If you’re a coffee lover with a discerning taste, this is your best choice.
Cafe Serrano is a medium-bodied Cuban roasted coffee, but unlike Cubita, this variety is ground fine. Perfect for the espresso machine, the coffee has a robust flavor. Delicious when mixed with milk, the coffee bean is entirely Arabica coffee variety.
Cultivated in the Sierra Maestra mountain region, Cafe Serrano has a pleasant aroma and flavor. With its rich flavor and smooth darkness, this coffee is perfect for espresso-based beverages (What Is a Lungo? – Know your Different Types of Espresso!).
Blended by Cuban coffee masters, El Arriero consists of 100% Arabica Cuban coffee beans. Roasted and ground, the coffee is ethically sourced from farms dedicated to growing organic varieties.
Medium-strong and with a pleasant flavor and aroma, you can make an intense espresso with no bitter aftertaste. As one of the finest and most sought-after coffee, it has the double strength of regular American coffee.
The Montecristo coffee, named like the popular brand of Cuban cigars, is a rare and high-quality coffee. This special coffee is a unique blend of coffee beans growing from one plantation. Located in Alto La Meseta, a 1,000 m peak in the Sierra Maestra mountain region, the region is famous for its ideal location. In the heydays, the region had more than 60 plantations of Arabica coffee bean variety.
Thanks to its high altitude and forest cover, the coffee plants grow perfectly as they’re shadowed by tropical trees. Montecristo is 100% organic coffee which means no pesticides and other harmful chemicals. The coffee comes roasted and grounded in a sealed tin. This helps to preserve its unique flavor and distinct aroma.
Named in honor of the highest peak in Cuba, Turquino Montanes is a delightfully aromatic coffee variety. Rich, creamy and sweet, it has honey undertones. As a rare and sought-after coffee, the beans come from a very small plantation in Cuba.
Composed of 100% Arabica coffee beans, the dark-roasted coffee beans are ethically sourced from farms in Cuba. These farms use natural methods of cultivation. If you want a dark roast with a well-balanced profile, Turquino Montanes is the best choice.
How Is Cuban Coffee Prepared?
The Cuban coffee is traditionally prepared in a Moka pot. The pot is a symbol of coffee culture in South America, the Caribbean, and Europe. This stainless steel pots brew Cuban coffee by pushing water with the aid of steam pressure through the coffee grounds.
Cuban coffee has a robust flavor that comes from its finely ground state. To prepare Cuban coffee, add water to the bottom chamber of the Moka pot. Make sure there is enough water to reach the safety release valve of the pot.
Next, open the can containing your favorite Cuban coffee and add a spoon of the ground coffee into the filter. Level off using your finger and ensure that you do not compress the ground coffee.
Attach the coffee filter to the bottom chamber of the Moka pot. Screw the collection chamber until firmly secure. Place the pot overheat and make sure not to heat the water too fast. This is because it may cause the coffee to brew too fast. If this happens, the result will not be robust as desired.
Add a teaspoon of sugar into your espresso cups, then boil the water. This will force the steam pressure to push the water through the coffee grounds. The water will collect the coffee in the top chamber and start the brewing process.
Once the process is complete, remove the Moka pot from the heat. Place a teaspoon of coffee into one of the cups then stir in the sugar to create espuma. The result should be a thick and slightly frothy beverage. Repeat for the second cup and serve immediately.
While traditional Cuban coffee is very sweet, you can add more sugar if you prefer the extra dulce side. Just make sure to match each coffee amount with a teaspoon of sugar to make espuma.
Can You Get Decaffeinated Cuban Coffee?
The simple answer is yes. The Bustelo Instant Decaffeinated Cuban Coffee comes in a glass bottle to maintain the aroma and flavor. With hints of syrupy smokiness and vanilla, this dark roast is smooth and has a bold finish.
Sustainably grown in the mountainous region of Cuba, the coffee is 100% Arabica and Non-GMO. With virtually no chemicals and caffeine, the company selects the highest quality beans then roasts and blends them. Along with a precise grind, the result is a thick and smooth foam that forms when you brew the beans.
Do you need Cuban Coffee to make Café Cubano (or Cafecito)?
In short, you do not. Café Cubano translates to ‘Coffee Cuba’ and is better known in the US as Cafecito – How to Make Cuban Coffee – Make Delicious Cafecito at Home!
The Cafecito is made by brewing espresso. You take some of the espresso and mix it with sugar until you get a paste. Then add the rest of the espresso to it and mix it. Voila, your Café Cubano is ready to serve!
Cuban coffee is a delight. It’s stronger than your usual cup of coffee in the US or Europe. The mix of strong coffee with sugar makes it a pleasure to drink.
The good news is that you can use any Espresso to make a Cafecito. If you want to stay as close as possible then use some of the better-known brands to make your Espresso. These include Café Bustelo, Café La Llave, or Café Pilon.