Coffee Origins : CuBa

Vietnamese Coffee Exporter

Coffee arrived in Cuba in 1748 from the island of Hispaniola, but there was no coffee industry until 1791, when French settlers arrived in the aftermath of the Haitian revolution. By 1827, the island had over 2,000 coffee farms, and coffee had become a major export, bringing in more money than sugar.

Castro’s revolution, from 1953 to 1961, brought with it the nationalization of coffee farms, and production dropped almost
immediately. Those who volunteered to farm coffee had no experience and those who had previously worked the land had fled the
country in the wake of the revolution. Coffee production struggled on the island, and little in the way of incentives or encouragement from the government did much to bolster the industry, though production did peak in the 1970s at around 30,000 tonnes (30,000 tons) of coffee. As Cuba’s coffee industry was faltering, many Central American countries continued to enjoy greater exports and success in international markets.

The breakdown of the Soviet Union left Cuba increasingly isolated, and the trade embargo placed on Cuba by the United States removed a major potential market. Japan has been the major importer of Cuban coffee, though Europe remains a strong market. The best coffees are typically exported, usually around one-fifth of the total production, leaving the rest for domestic consumption. Cuba’s own production does not cover domestic demand and in 2013 the country spent nearly $40 million on imported coffee. The coffee being imported into Cuba is not of the highest quality so it is relatively cheap, but high market prices have led to the reappearance of the habit of mixing in roasted peas to bulk out the coffee. 

‘Cuban coffee’


A number of Cuban coffee preparations have spread around the world, including Cortadito, Café con Leche and Café Cubano. The latter refers to an espresso that is sweetened as it is brewed, by adding sugar to the ground coffee. In the United States especially, and in other places, it is not uncommon to see ‘Cuban Coffee’ advertised. True Cuban coffee is illegal in the United States due to the trade embargo, but this term is often used to describe a Café Cubano. Coffees, often from Brazil, are selected to represent the āavours one might expect from Cuba but there are, of course, concerns about confusion among customers and mislabelling of goods.

Cuban coffee production is now modest, averaging roughly 6,000–7,000 tonnes (6,600–7,700 tons) per year. Many growers still rely on mules, and much of the equipment they utilize is ancient. Roads are frequently destroyed and poorly maintained as a result of alternating rain and drought.
Coffee is typically sun-dried, though some mechanical drying occurs, and most coffees grown for export are washed. Cuba’s temperature and geography are ideal for coffee production, and its scarcity may add to its value, but those seeking to cultivate high-quality coffee face numerous hurdles.

Traceability

Cuban coffees are unlikely to be traceable down to a single farm and are often only traceable down to a particular region or sub-region of the country.

Though the climate and topography suit the crop, Cuba’s coffee industry suffers from poor infrastructure and equipment.

Taste profile

Cuban coffees have a typical island coffee prolife: relatively low in acidity with a heavier body.

Growing regions

Population: 11,239,000
Number of 60kg (132lb) bags in 2016: 100,000
Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean. Much of it is relatively low-lying plains but there are some mountainous areas suitable for coffee.

Master saw

This mountainous region runs the length of the southern coast and has a long history of
guerrilla warfare, from the 1500s to the revolution in the 1950s. Most of the coffee
production on the island is located here.

Altitude: 1,000–1,200m (3,300–3,900ft)

Harvest: July–December

Varieties: Mostly Typica, some Bourbon, Caturra, Catuai, Catimor

Sierra del Escambray

A small amount of Cuba’s coffee is grown in this mountain range in the middle of the island.

Altitude: 350–900m (1,100–3,000ft)

Harvest: July–December

Varieties: Mostly Typica, some Bourbon, Caturra, Catuai, Catimor

Rosary mountains

Coffee farms have existed in this region since 1790, though relatively little of Cuba’s coffee
is grown here now. Instead, the mountains are home to Cuba’s Ārst Biosphere Reserve, and this is a protected area.

Altitude: 300–550m (1,000–1,800ft)

Harvest: July–December

Varieties: Mostly Typica, some Bourbon, Caturra, Catuai, Catimor

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