In Cuba coffee plays a really important role in everyday life and the culture. In a Cuban household, there has to be coffee, even if it’s just a little to serve it to possible guests. Coffe was brought to Cuba in the 18th century and is cultivated mainly in mountain areas in the center and the east of the country. Coffee and its plantation and production are also present in many pieces of Cuban literature and in songs.
Even in this nursery rhyme that Cuban children repeat since various generations:
Cachumbambe la vieja Inés, que fuma tabaco y toma café.
In the 18th and 19th century cafés started to open all around the island and some of them still exist.
Coffee in Cuba is strong and people drink it with a lot of sugar. It is served in small cups like espresso and sometimes you are allowed to at your own sugar.
Although over the last years drinks like cappuccino reached the island, people prefer their coffee in the traditional way or Cortadito for the sweet Cuban tooth. Cortadito is made with milk powder and more sugar than ordinary coffee. If you want it even sweeter try the Café Bonbon, it’s the same as Cortadito but you also add cacao powder.
There are also several coffees served with rum. Like the café, Mamainé, which is prepared with Añejo Reserva and honey.
Mama Inés, by the way, is a legend of an elderly black woman and she is always combined with coffee in songs and literature. But where this legend comes from is a different story.
Coffee is made in cafeteras (espresso makers) on the stove and you can get it almost everywhere on the streets. People tend to sell coffee out of their kitchens and living rooms for 1-2 CUPs. Just have in mind that this coffee was brewed before and kept warm, it is already been sweetened.
There are some places you should visit if you like coffee.
For example the Café Escorial or O’Reilly in Habana Vieja.
They roast their own coffee and also sell the beans and powder to take away. This coffee has a great flavor and smells incredible.
Calle O’Reilly No. 203, Esquina Calle San Ignacio, Habana Vieja
Calle Mercaderes No. 317, Esquina Muralla, Plaza Vieja, Habana Vieja
Of Course, there are many many more Cafés in Havana and all over the country.
Also, there are great options where you can get a cup of coffee for 5 CUP. Like in the small but lovely backyard café Línea Punto G. At the corner of the Streets Lína and G.
Of course, you can also take some coffee back home. Make sure it says “100% café” on the bag and not “mezclado”. Beside the coffee from the places mentioned before these are great brands: Café Regil, Café Turquino, Café Cubita and Café El Arriero.
Enjoy your coffee.