Cuba is a land of simple pleasures; the weather is lovely; the countryside is verdant, and La Havana is picturesque and charming. A meal in Cuba is also about uncomplicated food of vibrant colors and flavors. That’s the Cuban way.
The Caribbean island is also known for its fantastic rum and its coffee. Yes, people here are big coffee fans. Back in the day, when food and supplies were strictly rationed because of, you know, communism, every household got a stovetop coffee maker — not dissimilar to the famous Italian Bialetti.
This, together with serious coffee production, made the Cuban espresso something extraordinary. Cuba harvests over thirteen million tons of coffee every year, which is quite a lot for such a small country. In 1950, Cuba was the most significant coffee exporter in the world!
The coffee is always heavily roasted in Cuba, and that gives every brew a distinctive taste. It comes without saying there’s no Starbucks in Cuba. What they do have is an awesome Cafecito or little coffee. That’s what you drink on a weeknight after dinner, and it’s good!
Cafecito is a regular stovetop espresso with a sweet crema or foam. Since coffee pots like the moka are not known for their crema, Cubans make their foam themselves by whisking a splash of coffee, more often than not, the first few drops brewed with brown sugar. Then they pour the coffee, and there you go, a nice espresso shot with a sweet foamy crown.
How to choose your coffee? Well, if you want to get it just right, you might want to source Cuban coffee. During the Obama administration, things loosened up a little, and now you can find a nice variety of Cuban-grown coffee. Starbucks sells bags of Cuban coffee too.
You want to make sure you get the good stuff; whole beans heavy roasted to perfection, they should be very dark and oily. You also want to ground the beans yourself. A fine-ground is better for a stovetop espresso maker.
Brown sugar matters too, sugar is a big deal in Cuba, and refined, white sugar is a luxury; they use brown sugar instead, and you know what? It tastes better!
In a moka pot or with an espresso machine, brew two 1-oz espresso shots.
Scoop out two teaspoons of espresso into the mugs. Combine the coffee with the sugar, one teaspoon each mug. Stir vigorously until light foam forms.
Slowly pour the rest of the espresso into the cups, allowing the sugar-coffee foam to rise You should end with a rich espresso shot with a foamy layer. Sweeten to taste.