10 Reasons Coffee Lovers Should Visit Cuba

When first deciding to visit Cuba, several things came to mind. Communism, salsa music, food, baseball, beaches, fast Spanish speakers, and of course, coffee. And to be honest, it didn't take long to see all of those in action. People really do dance...all the time. People really do play baseball...everywhere. And people really to drink coffee...well, all the time. So here's why we think any coffee lover should visit Cuba. 

1. Coffee farms for days.

The Sierra Maestre Mountains in the eastern region of the country are home to some of the finest Arabica in the world. In Cuba, you’ll find a ton of red, clay-like dirt that is home to extremely fertile soil that needs no chemical fertilizers. This is due to the rich humus that you'll find throughout the region.

2. Cuba and their coffee farms have remained untouched by Western culture since the 1950s.

Experiencing Cuba is like going through a time warp. From once-bustling waterfront hotels, to powder blue 1957 Chevy Bel-Airs cruising the Malecón, this place is vintage 50s beauty. But don’t be too romanticized by the flaking pastel-pink building on the corner, or the classic American car with the Japanese engine in it, Cuba is very-much a third-world nation. And if their coffee farming practices are any indication of it, the idea of Cuba as a coffee country still has a long way to go. Which is exactly why you should visit, to see it grow. 

A cafetera (coffee pot) atop a drying stand on a Viñales coffee farm. Within a UNESCO World Heritage site, this farm is prohibited from using any machines or chemicals to grow and produce their coffee. 

A cafetera (coffee pot) atop a drying stand on a Viñales coffee farm. Within a UNESCO World Heritage site, this farm is prohibited from using any machines or chemicals to grow and produce their coffee. 

3. Coffee is a huge part of their daily and social lives.

Oh, family is visiting from Santiago? Your daughter is having a kid? Your just arriving to your casa particular for the first time? Time to celebrate over coffee. And a cigar, too. It’s customary to pack the Moka Pot with coffee and throw it on the stove when celebrating a special occasion. Or simply talking about neighborhood gossip, too. 

My German friend Manuel and I enjoying our first Cuban coffee and cigar at our hostel in Havana. 

My German friend Manuel and I enjoying our first Cuban coffee and cigar at our hostel in Havana. 

4. The coffee here may not always be black, but it sure as heck ain’t wack.

Home to the Miami favorite, the Café Cubano, it’s most common here to drink your coffee with sugar. Sometimes, Cubans will mix their sweet, frothy goodness into their Moka Pot’s for a sweet and intense pour, but that’s mostly found north of the Caribbean in Miami. More often than not, local white sugar will accompany your espresso shot.

5. Coffee, amongst many other things, is very relevant in Cuba right now.

With talks of the trade embargo being lifted in the near future, many Cubans are debating whether or not this will directly benefit the Cuban coffee farmer. Obviously, since all farms and coffee shops are still run by the State, lifting the embargo by no means will guarantee an improvement in the agriculture sector. Nonetheless, coffee, and many of Cuba’s other viable homegrown commodities like tobacco and rum, are being talked about a lot these days. 

6. People are educated here, and they want to learn more about how to improve their rapidly growing coffee industry.

It won’t take you long to discover how knowledgeable Cubans are on subjects like politics, sociology and agriculture. American or Cuban politics, locals will have an opinion. Talking to foreigners about their living situations, incomes, work status, Cubans will not shy away. Now, talk about GDP like coffee, and other ways to improve it, and they will listen. They entertain the Western perspective, and may like to truly apply it one day. 

7. They may be poor, but they live their lives with passion, and lots of it. I like to think strong coffee has something do with that. 

Cuba will without a doubt humble any Western traveler. From the Havana streets, you can peer straight into their homes. They have a couple of rocking chairs, a TV, a table, some family photos, and not much else. To think they can dance, laugh and talk as much as they do—under these conditions—is beyond me. They seem to just get it.  

8. There is so much room for opportunity and coffee growth.

As we’ve said, Cubans are very welcoming of Western culture and our coffee practices, especially the younger crowd. Though coffee is grown and sold throughout Cuba, the coffee industry can seriously benefit from a schooling in Western coffee culture. 

9. Cuba was once the world’s largest exporter of coffee.

This is mind blowing. We see Cuban coffee as a delicacy on menus in Latino neighborhoods, but how often do we associate Cuba with being a former coffee powerhouse? For millennials, who make up many of the travelers to Cuba these days, we just can’t wrap our heads around it. Cuba has always been so far, yet suddenly so close for us. If the political and physical infrastructure rebuilds itself to the way it was pre-Castro regime, there’s a shot Cuba can become a legitimate force in the international coffee industry.     

10. Cuban coffee in most Western nations is not actually from Cuba, so why not go straight to the source? 

Don’t go to Miami for a Café Cubano, because the coffee will likely be from Brazil, Costa Rica or Nicaragua. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but why drink something that says it’s from one place, when it’s from another? Plane and ferry tickets may soon become widely available, so why not go straight to its origin?  

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