Cuban Coffee Industry

written by Lori Thiessen

In Cuba’s rich history, the coffee bean as a crop plays a part. Like most Latin American countries, Cuba does grow coffee but not in quantities of say, Brazil which harvested over 27,000,000 (60 lb) bags in 1999. Most of Cuba’s coffee is grown for the domestic market and for some limited export markets.

Coffee as a crop has a grim history as most of us are aware thanks to the initiatives like Fair Trade Coffee.  These initiatives take into account the economic well-being of the small coffee producer, and the environmental impact that the coffee crop has on the surrounding ecosystem.

Cuba’s mountains are wonderful for growing Arabica beans known for their rich flavour and low caffeine.  But mountains aren’t exactly easy to farm yet 2,000 coffee plantations were established by 1827.

The current ‘failure’ of the Cuban coffee industry is due to a lack of experienced, adequately compensated coffee farmers to properly cultivate the crop since many of them fled Cuba at the time of the Revolution, the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s, heavy competition from other stronger Latin American countries, and the US Embargo.

But Cuban coffee retains its enthusiasts among ex-pat Cubans, especially Cuban-Americans. The ex-pat Cuban communities try to retain their cultural identity by making ‘Cuban’ coffee with beans produced in other Latin American countries.

But it just isn’t the same as real Cuban coffee made from beans grown in the Sierra Maestra mountains. In an ever-growing niche-developing coffee market, the Cuban coffee industry may be able to flourish again by capturing the imaginations of aficionados of rare and specialty coffees.

Q: Do you buy Fair Trade Coffee? If so, why?

Until Next Time,

May Your Coffee Always Be Freshly Brewed!

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