Coffee is an integral part of an adult diet, giving us a delicious energy boost every morning, early evening, or even as a late-night dessert pairing.
While we may associate high-brow coffee culture with Italy or France, some of the best coffee makers and beans lie in the New World. Cuban Colada coffee is a prime example of wonderful New World coffee traditions.
Below, you can read all about colada coffee, how to order it and how to make it.
What Is Colada Coffee?
Also known as Cafe Cubano, Cafecito, Cuban Pull, or Cuban Shot, Colada coffee is the Cuban equivalent of Italian espresso. Unlike the Italian espresso shot, Colada coffee consists of espresso and natural brown sugar.
Cuba is the birthplace of sugar cane, so there’s never a shortage of sugar. Plus, incorporating their most prized crop into their coffee tradition celebrates Cuban culture.
Cubans make colada coffee by blending a hefty spoonful of sugar with the first drops of espresso, whipping the liquid into a creamy foam. The rest of the espresso gets poured and mixed with the coffee-infused sugar foam.
Cuban Coffee Traditions – History of the Colada Coffee
Coffee has a long history as a Cuban crop and culinary tradition. Coffee farming began to gain traction as a major industry in Cuba in the 1790s as Haitian French immigrants settled in Cuba and erected large coffee plantations.
As an export, coffee became as important as sugar by the 19th century, thus prompting the formation of Colada or Cafe Cubano as a cultural and social institution. Colada became a daily tradition, usually undertaken as a social custom in which friends and family enjoyed a sugary, caffeinated cafecito multiple times throughout the day.
The morning colada is normally taken with a light breakfast of toast. Cafes and restaurants around Cuba offer Colada for mid-morning and afternoon drinks to be enjoyed with lunch. Upon entering a household, all Cuban families will offer guests a colada coffee.
The most well-known Cuban coffee brands originated during the early to mid-20th century, which coincided with the heyday of Cuban coffee exports. After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the coffee industry in Cuba all but disappeared owing to embargos and nationalizing the country’s economy.
Still, the Cafe Cubano tradition remains a source of pride within Cuba and in the Cuban American population of Miami. The Cuban coffee brands Cafe Bustelo and Pilon still offer the famed dark roast Cuban coffee that spawned the Colada tradition. However, they’ve been bought out by American companies.
Cubans use the same traditions and methods to brew their beloved Coladas, often reverting to poorer-quality coffee beans or a mixture of coffee beans and peas when coffee supplies are low.
In addition to the simple sugar and espresso mixture, cafe Cubano or Colada also encompasses numerous coffee drinks with dairy ingredients and a more elaborate preparation, which you’ll soon read about in the following sections.
What Makes a Good Colada Coffee?
The best Colada coffee depends on the ingredients, timing, and brewing method. To honor the authenticity of Colada coffee, you should use a classic Cuban coffee brand, namely, Cafe Bustelo or Cafe Pilon. Both brands produce high-quality Arabica coffee beans, which are the only kind you should ever use in Colada.
Another essential ingredient is sugar. The most common form of sugar in Cuba is brown-colored, unrefined demerara sugar. Blending demerara sugar with Cuban espresso ensures the best-tasting colada coffee.
As for the method, a perfectly whipped sugar and coffee foam, or espumita, is integral to serving the best cup of Colada. Below, you’ll read about the procedure for the best espresso brewing methods.
Most Popular Colada Coffee Drinks on the Menu
Here are some of the most popular Colada drinks you are likely to find on the menu of your local coffee shop.
Cafe Cubano is the most basic form of Colada and the most authentic and popular drink served inside Cuban households to guests. It requires brewing dark roast espresso coffee beans from Cuban plantations in a Moka pot or espresso machine.
The first drops of espresso to trickle into the pot are used to add to a spoonful of demerara sugar, whipping vigorously with a spoon to create a light sugar foam. The remaining espresso blends with the foam to create a rich, velvety, and creamy cup of espresso.
This is the cup of Cuban coffee that you enjoy with family and friends inside the home.
Cafe con Leche
A little-known fact about Italian coffee traditions is that milk in coffee is a coffee-drinking tradition reserved for the morning. Cubans have also adopted this rule with Cafe con Leche or coffee with milk. Cafe con Leche is a drink enjoyed with breakfast toast in most Cuban households.
Unlike a cappuccino or latte, hot milk is served in a separate cup from the espresso, and you pour the coffee into the milk. Additionally, Cafe con Leche uses the regular sugar and espresso mixture from Cafe Cubano to pour into hot milk.
Once you’ve poured the Cafe Cubano into the milk, you stir vigorously with a spoon.
A luxurious and decadent version of the Spanish cortado or Italian Macchiato, the Cortadito is a single-shot espresso drink topped off with steamed milk. This may sound identical to the Spanish cortado, but in Cuba, the milk is sweet.
Due to the scarcity of fresh milk in Cuba, most households receive rations of condensed or sweetened and condensed milk. Thus, it is customary to make cortadito with steamed, sweetened condensed milk. The drink is a shot consisting of a one-ounce shot of straight espresso topped with either equal parts or half-part milk.
Colada is the same as Cafe Cubano, but it is the form of Cuban coffee you order on the go instead of at someone’s home. If you go to a cafe on your work break or lunch break, the barista will fill a styrofoam cup with a whopping 3-6 shots of espresso.
This may sound like a lot, but it only results in around four ounces of liquid that drinkers customarily down in one quick gulp as they rush to return to their workplace. This is an ultra-strong coffee that is too intense for sipping purposes but perfect for getting you through a grueling workday.
Ways To Make Colada Coffee
The most common form of brewing colada coffee at home is the Moka Pot, while the most common brewing method in cafes is the espresso machine. Below, we’ll discuss the methodology and procedures of each.
Brewing With a Moka Pot
The Moka Pot is an Italian-born mechanism invented in 1933 by Italian engineer Alfonso Bialetti. It is the preferred method for home coffee brewing in Italy and Latin America. Most Cuban households have a Moka Pot to brew their Cafe Cubanos.
The Moka Pot revolutionized home coffee brewing by converting the espresso machine into a stovetop coffee maker. Bialetti drew inspiration for the Moka Pot from watching his wife wash clothes. Upon seeing the hot water force soap suds up through the dirty clothes, Bialetti set out to impart the same technique with coffee grounds.
Thus, the Moka Pot’s mechanism forces steam from boiling water through coffee grounds, using pressure to infuse the grounds into the water for a robust and espresso-like cup of coffee. The Moka pot consists of three chambers. The bottom chamber is for water. The center chamber is the coffee grounds filter, and the top chamber receives the finished product.
For Cuban coffee, Cubans pack medium-fine ground dark roast coffee into the center chamber and boiling water into the bottom chamber, placing the assembled pot over the stove on medium heat.
As the first drops of coffee percolate into the top chamber, you pour those drops over a spoonful of demerara sugar to whip into the light foamy espumita. As the rest of the coffee enters the top chamber, you can pour it into the espresso cup with the foam and stir.
Brewing With an Espresso Machine
As most households do not contain espresso machines, brewing with an espresso machine is generally a practice relegated to commercial establishments like cafes and restaurants. Espresso machines are the ultimate pressure cookers, shooting steam with around ten times the force of the Moka pot through finely-ground coffee beans.
Modern-day espresso machines are automated with various brands and have different designs. The original turn of the 20th-century machine is manual. Whichever espresso machine you use will produce the strongest shot of concentrated coffee you can get.
Fine coffee grounds get packed tightly into an espresso pod before fitting into the steam or pump-driven machine. Once turned on, the first drops of espresso are added to sugar for the Cuban coffee foam while the rest of the espresso comes dripping into a separate cup.
You simply add the espresso shot to the sugar foam to achieve the ultimate Cafe Cubano. You can use the machine’s steamer to create hot milk for a Cafe con Leche or a Cortadito.
Colada coffee refers to the Cuban tradition of coffee drinking that fuses Italian methodology with Cuban ingredients for a social drinking experience. Colada coffee is an intoxicating combination of espresso and natural sugar, creating a creamy, thick, and sweet coffee drink that will have you hooked.
Hopefully, this article has given you all the information you need to make Colada coffee at home. Let us know how you enjoyed Cafe Cubano in the comments section!