Land of the Colada: Café Culture in Miami
Miami is the vibrant epicenter of Cuban culture in the United States, and to truly understand Miami coffee, you’ll need to dive headfirst into the Cuban American community. Located just 227 miles from Havana, the seaside city is home to nearly 700,000 Cuban Americans as of 2019 –- many of whom brought their food, music, and rich coffee traditions along with them.
Coffee's place in Cuban culture dates back to the 18th century when the crop was first introduced to the island. However, coffee production didn't initially take off in Cuba until French colonists arrived from nearby Haiti, most fleeing uprisings after Haiti's abolition of slavery. French interest in growing Cuba's coffee industry led to a subsequent boom in production and, of course, consumption of coffee beans. This foreign influence, combined with the introduction of espresso from Italian migrants, ultimately formed Cuba's modern-day coffee culture.
Unlike the major chains that dominate American cities, grabbing a coffee in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood involves visiting a ventanita, or window-shop. Business owners typically serve traditional Cuban coffees and pastries, such as guava and cheese-filled pastelitos, to regulars needing a midday cafecito break.
Cuban coffee is intensely strong and sweet all at once. Usually made with a stovetop Moka, the thick espresso is transformed with sugar to make different concoctions. The traditional Cafecito, or Cubano depending on who you ask, is a small shot of coffee topped with a sweetened foam. Once the first few drops of coffee leave the Moka's spout, they are quickly poured over sugar and vigorously stirred to create a bittersweet cream. The remaining brewed coffee is then poured into espresso cups before getting a dollop of the creamy espumita to top it off.
Other popular coffee options are the sweet Colada, a shareable batch of Cafecito, or the creamy Cortadito – strong Cuban coffee topped with an equal portion of steamed milk.