Why is Cuban Coffee Different? (Including Recipe)

When I was a child there was this song that my parents used to listen to in which the woman sings something about Cuban coffee. I always wondered what made Cuban coffee so special. I finally figured it out and would like to share it with you.

The coffee culture in Cuba is quite amazing. It has a rich history and is now a really important part of Cuban culture. Coffee-drinking has actually become a social activity.

What is Cuban Coffee?

So, basically, is Cuban coffee (or café cubano, Cafecito or Cuban espresso) strong, dark roast espresso that is sweetened with a sugar foam that is called espumita. It is served in a demitasse cup and often enjoyed among friends.

Traditionally, it is made in a stovetop espresso maker called a cafetera, which, is the Spanish for a Moka pot. However, some people use an espresso machine to make it.

Cuban Coffee Beans

The coffee plants in Cuba happily grows in the Sierra Maestra mountains. Coffee farms in Cuba is known for growing organic coffee. Furthermore, traditional Cuban coffee beans are usually very dark roast beans.

History of Coffee in Cuba

Coffee farming started in Cuba in the mid-18th century. However, it was only in the 1790s that the coffee industry there really started to gain speed. The reason for that is that a lot of French people fled the Haitian Revolution in that time and they helped to bring this growth to pass.

The industry grew so much that by the middle of the 19th century the coffee industry was as important to the Cuban economy as sugar.

Cuban people started to adopt coffee-drinking into their everyday lives. However, is was not amongst the Cubans that Cuban coffee became popular. All over the world people began to appreciate it. So much so that by the 1940s Cuba was the biggest coffee exporter in the world.

Sadly, the Cuban Revolution in 1959 caused the Cuban coffee production to decline significantly and it is yet to return to its former glory.

Cuban Coffee in the United States

Unsurprisingly, Cuban coffee culture rubbed off on the rest of the world. Some Americans, in particular, fell in love with it. In fact, in Miami there is an official “Cafecito time”.

What is “Cafecito Time”?

In 2012 JennyLee Molina, a social media influencer based in Miami was drinking cafecito one afternoon and when she looked down on her watch it was 3:05 p.m. 

305 is Miami’s area code and she ended up tweeting a photo of her coffee with the hashtag #305cafecito for fun. The hashtag went vial and ended up in a campaign to make 3:05 p.m. Miami’s official cafecito time. In April 2013 Miami’s Mayor, Thomas Regalado ,actually made this happen.

Different Types of Cuban Coffee

You get different variations for which Cuban espresso is the base. Here is a list of those drinks.


A colada is a 4oz espresso drink with espumita that is meant for sharing between a few people. If you buy it from a coffee shop, you’ll probably get it in a styrofoam cup with a few smaller cups in which you can divide the coffee.


A cortadito is a shot of Cuban espresso with a little bit of steamed milk added.

Café con Leche

A café con leche is, once again, Cuban shot of espresso with steamed milk. However, this time the coffee and milk are in equal amounts. This Cuban-style coffee is often served with breakfast. Many Cubans drink it with buttered Cuban toast (pan tostado) and then dip the bread in the coffee.

How to Make Cuban Coffee


Cuban coffee has only a few simple ingredients. Here is a a list of them:

  1. A shot of espresso
  2. 10 ml demitasse sugar (you can use brown sugar or white sugar too if you can’t find demitasse sugar)
  3. Steamed milk (optional)


  1. Okay, you start off by brewing coffee in your Moka pot. You can use a regular espresso shot made with an espresso machine, if you prefer.
  2. Pour the first bit few drops of espresso into a separate cup and add 10ml of demerara sugar.
  3. Let the coffee finish it’s brewing process while you mix the sugar and coffee. Stir it vigorously until it is light brown and thick sugar foam appears (this is the espumita I was talking about earlier).
  4. Finally, mix the rest of the coffee and the espumita.

Cortadito and Café Con Leche

Now, you can take the coffee one step further to make either a cortadito or café con leche by adding some steamed milk.

A cortadito just has a little bit of milk, whereas café con leche has equal amounts of coffee and milk.

What If You Can’t Get Authentic Cuban Coffee Beans?

As I mentioned earlier, Cuban coffee export isn’t as big as it once was. This, sadly, means that some people won’t be able to get their hands on real Cuban coffee beans.

However, this does in no way mean that you can’t enjoy some delicious Cuban coffee. Just use normal really dark roast coffee. It might not be the real thing, but it’s pretty close.

Final Thoughts: Cuban Coffee

I think that as a coffee lover, you owe it to yourself to try out different types of coffee. Why not make this delicious beverage the next type of coffee that you try?

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