Café Cubano for this Americano

Cafe Cubano

I’m in Florida right now. When I travel I like to leave a little taste of the local culture on this blog. Last night I got a great big sip of it in the form of Café Cubano. The (passionate) conversation about this iconic beverage was interesting enough to me that I decided to have a sip. I’m not a coffee drinker so I was surprised at myself.

You see Cubans (and Cuban Americans) take their coffee very seriously. Forget the venti mocha. Leave the cappuccino at Starbucks. When in the Ybor City section of Tampa do as the natives do, order a Café Cubano or a Café con Leche. No Cuban meal is complete without one of these strong, sweet coffee drinks savored at the end of a sultry Florida night. A proper Café Cubano has a thick layer of sweet crema (cream) floating over strong espresso. It was this crema that started the vigorous conversation on what constitutes a Café Cubano or a Café con Leche.

Once the crema was deemed correct, that’s when the conversation really got going. It seems the rules extend far beyond the amount (more than espresso, less than latte) and texture (silky) of the sweet crema. The secret to Café Cubano is the finely ground, dark roasted coffee itself, or what Cubans call a cafecito. The two brands favored by Cuban Americans are Bustelo and Pilon. Look for them in Latin markets.

The Cuban friends I was sitting with spooned a big helping of the crema from the top of the cup to test the sweetness then took a sip of the brew. I don’t know if this is the traditional way to enjoy this beverage, but it certainly instilled passion. From my point of view I will say that the sweet crema floating on top tasted a lot like good mocha candy. Even I (the non-coffee drinker) enjoyed the process of ending the meal with a taste of Café Cubano.

Of course when I compared the taste to sweet mocha candy the conversation got going all over again. Another round of Café Cubanos was ordered, another taste was required from me. Evidently I said the wrong thing. What does this Americano know about Café Cubano.  GREG

Café Cubano

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Source Adapted from Bon ApetitPublished

For Cafe con Leche use 1 part steamed milk stirred into 2 parts Café Cubano (prepared as above).


  • finely ground Cuban coffee or espresso (as needed)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • water (as needed)


Prepare a 6‑serving stove-top espresso maker according to manufacturer’s directions and brew a pot of strong Cuban coffee or espresso. Put the sugar in a large glass measuring cup and add 1 or 2 tablespoons of the hot coffee or espresso. Using a small whisk, beat the sugar with the coffee or espresso until pale and thick and nearly dissolved, about 1 minute. Stir in the remaining hot coffee or espresso. Let the foam rise to the top, then pour into espresso style cups and serve immediately.