Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Show me your coffee and I'll show you who your people are. Part I

There is the expression mi abuela would rattle at me, "Dime con quien andas, y te dire quien eres." (Show me who you hang with, and I'll show you who you are.) And I've never forgotten it.

Bueno, as I sit here at the Cafe, drooling over coffee that I have given up for Lent, I begin to realize that coffee (and perhaps tea as well) is very indicative of the people and the cultural situation that they live in.

So lets talk about the Cafecito Cubano and the Coffee drunk in Cuba today, and see if I have a point or if I am hallucinating from the smell of coffee, which I insanely gave up for Lent!

I've been often asked, "what makes Cuban coffee Cuban?"

I've heard many creative explainations, but lets cut to the quick: Cuban coffee is part of our Cuban-American preservation of a culture that is in exile and in crisis as it is detatched from Cuba.

Preservation? ¿Como?

Prior to the budding develops that happened in the 1950's, and most especially prior to the revolution and subsequent devestation of Cuba's natural resources, Cuba's main, and at times only, cash crop was sugar.

This is so evident that many may be familar with the old phrase: "No hay pais sin azucar."

Thus, with sugar being the single major cash crop, anything that could be sweetened was sweetened. Open Villapol's Concina Criolla and we'll find that even the traditional recipe for Cuban black beans contains a spoon of sugar. And does anyone know of another country whose desserts that are sweeter than Cuban desserts?

Sugar, caña veral, ron Bacardi, y todo, was part of the pre-castro culture in Cuba.

Furthermore, since the coffee that came from el Oriente was stronger and bitter than it's Colombian cousin, the regular strength espresso that the Italians have to offer here in the US does not sit well with the Cuban palatte.

We Cuban-American's drink a strong sweetened espresso not made by coffee, nor sugar, from Cuba and still we call it Cuban coffee. We do it because in the end it is our expression of a people preserving the areas of a culture and a life that fidel could not corrupt, could not control and could not overthrow.


Roberto Jesus Companioni said...

oye I drink the cafecito only during my friday morning fast for farinas. como decia un son de chirino, ni don johson me lo quita!
the souto family from oriente that owned the bustelo brand,now controll 75% of coffee brands here in the US.including pilon and the italian marca medaglia di oro.goes to show you the real cuba is here ,free to live and prosper as simbolized by the entrepenourship of families like the Souto in the cafe business.

machete said...

good post.

Songuacassal said...

Well said Roberto!

Lourdes said...

You know, I've been in this country 40 years. I still can't drink American coffee. It tastes like "Agua chirringa"