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Cuban coffee is the driving force behind of much of Miami’s productivity. People line up at little café windows and bodegas around town every morning to get their fix. For those new to the scene, let us explain what makes this kind of java so special.

What is it?

In its most basic form, Cuban coffee is espresso brewed Italian style—which means adding lots of sugar as the coffee is brewed. This causes the sucrose (table sugar) to hydrolyze into glucose and fructose, which makes the liquid extra sweet. The favorite to use is Demerara, which is a large grain, light brown sugar with a toffee flavor.

History

Coffee trees were brought to Cuba in the mid 1700’s, and production with the humid climate and rich soil boomed. The birth of what we now know as Cuban coffee came with the importation of Italian espresso machines to the island.

Variations

Here are the terms you need to know in order to successfully place an order at the café window:

Cafecito:

Pure Cuban coffee served in a tiny cup that’s half the size of a shot glass. This brew is super concentrated, so that’s all you need!

Colada:

A small Styrofoam cup filled with Cuban coffee. This is served with small plastic cafecito cups and is meant to be shared among 2-6 people, depending on how many friends you want to make, and how jacked up you’re looking to get.

Café con Leche:

A cup of hot or steamed milk served with a shot of Cuban coffee. If you don’t want sugar in the espresso then be sure to say, “sin azucar.”

Cortadito:

Basically a Cuban coffee topped with steamed milk. This short version of the café con leche drink is mostly espresso with a little milk, while the café con leche is mostly milk with a little espresso.

Where to Pick One Up

No matter where you are in Miami, you’re never more than five minutes away from a good Cuban coffee. Some of our favorite proprietors include

La Suiza Bakery:

This beloved Westchester baker is a local classic. While there, also be sure to try one of the many pastilitos, which come  with fillings like cheese and guava.

Las Olas Café:

A short walk from the Winter Haven Hotel, this may be the best Cuban restaurant in South Beach.

David’s Café:

David’s is famous on Miami Beach for extraordinary cafecitos, which pair great with the Cuban Breakfast—fried egg on white rice with sweet plantains.