A Guide To Cuban Coffee In Miami

cuban coffee

Cuban coffee at Versailles Restaurant

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By: Shayne Benowitz

Miami’s spirit is infused with the Cuban culture and one of the best ways to get a taste of it is through the daily cafecito tradition. Yes, we’re talking about Cuban coffee. It’s strong, it’s sweet, it’s incredibly flavorful and it will supercharge your morning or your afternoon when it’s time for a pick-me-up. You’ll find Cuban coffee shops and restaurants with ventanitas (small windows where you can order from the counter to go), in every neighborhood in Miami.

Of course, Little Havana is the heart of Miami’s Cuban culture and here you’ll find the iconic restaurant Versailles. It’s a great place to start your Cuban coffee education. Whether you grab a table inside the expansive dining room or order from the window, you’re in for a treat.

Types of Cuban Coffee

There are variations on the Cuban coffee order and that generally involves your espresso to foamed milk ratio, so don’t be intimidated if you’re unfamiliar. A good place to start is the café con leche. Translated to coffee with milk, it’s similar to a latte with an equal ratio of Cuban espresso and steamed milk. Pair yours with a pan Cubano (Cuban toast) at breakfast time, which you can dunk in your coffee, for the perfect start to a day in Miami.

For something along the lines of a shot of espresso, order a cafecito (sometimes referred to as café Cubano). Don’t be fooled by its petite size; this sweetened shot of Cuban coffee packs a punch that will get your juices flowing. A cortadito is in the same family as the cafecito and similar to a macchiato. It literally means “cut” with milk and it’s a cafecito topped with a halo of steamed milk.

Then you’ve got your colada. Typically served in a small Styrofoam cup with a half dozen thimble-sized plastic cups, it’s several cafecitos in one cup meant to be shared between four to six friends. Enjoying Cuban coffee is more than just a jolt of caffeine, it’s also about community and this is a classic way of sharing your morning coffee with family, friends or co-workers.

How to Order Cuban Coffee

You’ll notice pretty quickly in Miami that Spanish is spoken widely throughout the city. This is especially true in Little Havana and at Cuban restaurants and coffee shops. If you don’t speak the language, don’t be intimidated. You’ll find in most cases that people speak English in addition to Spanish. When ordering your Cuban coffee, simply place your order or have a little fun and give your Spanish some practice.

One important thing to note is that Cuban coffee is typically made with sugar. If you have a preference for no sugar, light sugar or anything else, be sure to tell the person at the counter. For your first time, we recommend you try it as it comes -sugar and all - to see how you like the flavor, and then you can make your sugar adjustments going forward. Sugar is an essential ingredient of Cuban coffee.

What to Eat with Cuban Coffee

While Cuban toast is an excellent snack to pair with your Cuban coffee, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Look for empanadas, croquetas and pasteles typically found in heated glass displays near the entrance of Cuban restaurants or at the ventanitas. Empanadas are baked or fried pastries stuffed with anything from spicy beef to chicken or ham and cheese. Croquetas are fried bechamel sauce and meat blend formed into fingers usually with ham or chicken. And pasteles are sweet pastries, often filled with guava and cream cheese. And wow—they sure taste great paired with a hot, sweet cafecito, so enjoy!

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