Weekend Trip To Cuba - A Coffee Adventure
This past week, me and a few friends were fortunate enough to visit Havana Cuba. Cuba is a country with a rich history, vibrant culture, and a unique blend of Spanish, African, and indigenous influences. One of the things that Cuba is well-known for is its coffee and cigars. The country has a long tradition of producing high-quality coffee and some of the finest cigars in the world. If you a fan of either one or both, a trip to Cuba is a must. And considering I am a co-owner of a coffee roasting business, it was a must that I experience the Cuban culture.
When you arrive in Cuba, the first thing you notice is the warm climate and the colorful buildings that line the streets. Havana, the capital city, is the perfect place to start your trip. The city is a fascinating mix of old and new, with grand colonial-era buildings standing next to more modern structures. Many of the buildings in Cuba were built during the colonial period when Cuba was a Spanish colony. These buildings were constructed with materials that were available at the time and were not designed to withstand the tropical climate of the island. The Cuban government has limited resources and has not been able to invest in the upkeep of many of these buildings. Cuba is prone to hurricanes, which can cause significant damage to buildings. The lack of resources and infrastructure to rebuild quickly exacerbates the problem.
One of the first things want to do is head to a coffee shop to sample some of the local brew. Cuban coffee is known for its strong, rich flavor, usually served in small cups known as "cafecitos" If you're feeling brave, you can also try a "cortadito"; which is a cafecito with a splash of milk. This type of coffee is made by brewing espresso with sugar, which creates a sweet, creamy flavor. It's often served with a glass of water to cleanse the palate. One of the unique things about Cuban coffee culture is the way it's served. Cafes in Cuba often have a walk-up window where people can order their coffee to go. The windows are called "ventanitas" and they are an integral part of the coffee culture in Cuba.
One of the best places to try Cuban coffee in Havana is Cafe El Escorial, a historic cafe that's been serving coffee since 1902. Situated in the heart of Old Havana, the cafe is a great spot to people-watch and soak up the city's atmosphere. For myself, I was able to get fresh roasted coffee while visiting the cigar farm. They had unbagged coffee that was freshly roasted. I was fortunate enough to bring some whole beans back with me!
After you've had your fill of coffee, it's time to turn your attention to Cuba's other famous export - cigars. Cuba is renowned for producing some of the world's finest cigars, and you can't visit the country without trying at least one. We spent a full day at a coffee farm in Viñales. While there we received a full education on the art of cigar making. Although I am not a “true” cigar smoker, when in Rome, do as the Romans do!
Outside of getting cigars direct from the farm, the best place to buy cigars in Cuba is at a Casa del Habano, which is a government-run cigar shop. These shops sell only the highest quality cigars and are staffed by knowledgeable salespeople who can help you choose the perfect cigar for your tastes. Many of them have a direct connection to the farm where the cigars come from.
Cuban cigars are so highly regarded that they are often referred to as
"the forbidden fruit"; because of the U.S. trade embargo that makes them difficult to obtain in the United States. For this reason, many tourists who visit Cuba take the opportunity to buy and smoke Cuban cigars.
Once you've bought your cigars, it's time to find a place to smoke them. Many hotels in Cuba have designated smoking areas, but if you want a truly authentic experience, head to one of the city's many cigar bars. Cigar bars are popular in Cuba and are the perfect place to relax with a cigar and a drink. These bars often have a selection of cigars to choose from, and some even have cigar sommeliers who can help you pair your cigar with the perfect drink. You can also walk along the Malecon and enjoy the breeze along the 5 mile seawall. You’ll see plenty of people out just enjoying the day by fishing, sitting around talking, dancing, or just enjoying a nice walk with a cigar!
Overall, coffee and cigar culture in Cuba are significant parts of the country's history and are a must-try for anyone visiting Cuba. From the strong, bold coffee to the meticulously crafted cigars, there's something for everyone to enjoy. So pack your bags, grab your passport, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure!