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I was whisked away to Havana in Shoreditch by bus – probably the only time I’ll be able to visit Cuba. The scene was somewhere in town, next to a mechanic’s shop, which was by a barber and between the two was a café. The café had music, and dancing and fashion and all the elements of nothing at all like a Barry Manilow song It was absolutely perfect.
There I learned about the about-to-be-released Cubania coffee. A whopping 13 on the Nespresso scale of intensity. The coffee was being released with a real cane sugar box in order to create the perfect Cuban coffee – a mixture of passion and intensity and the swinging of the hips and the stomping of the feet. Something that is evocative of Cuba itself.
It is, perhaps, interesting to note that coffee and dance arrived in Cuba at the same time in the 17th century. The first coffee plant was introduced to Cuba by Jose Antonio Gelabert in 1748. Years later in 1791, French colonists fleeing the abolition of slavery during the Haitian Revolution introduced better coffee production methods to Cuba. Yiikes – that’s not what you want to read and yet it is fact. Coffee in Cuba is based in slavery.
Coffee was being transported from Africa to Brazil and Cuba was a natural stopping point. The slaves on the ships brought music made from the parts of the boats they were on – sticks made from wood called the clave – there is always a male and a female and the female clave strikes the male. So there is an African origin to salsa music.
Café Cubano (so that’s Cuban coffee, Cuban espresso, cafecito, Cuban pull, Cuban shot which I got by cheating and Googling it) is a type of espresso shot coffee style which originated in Cuba *after* espresso machines (so not in the 17th C) were first imported into Cuba from Italy one presumes before the revolution (so pre-1959). Specifically, Café Cubano refers to an espresso shot which is sweetened with demerara sugar as it is being brewed. This is why Nespresso released sugar with the capsules – they are natural partners.
Interesting to note is that there is no actual Cuban coffee in this blend. They have used coffee from India, Brazil, Indonesia and Columbia. What was interesting to me as well is that coffee, like chocolate, is fermented. The beans (like chocolate) come from inside a fruit (like chocolate) and they are fermented for a short time – a few hours to a day (chocolate is longer) which is sometimes assisted by water (fermenting in its own juices is apparently dry fermentation). After fermentation, the beans are dried and shipped to Switzerland where the magic happens. The reason that there is no Cuban coffee in this Cubania is that many coffee plantations have been destroyed to grow sugar cane. Lamentable as coffee, like chocolate, takes time to mature before yielding.
In addition to Fairtrade, Nespresso works directly with the farmers to ensure quality, consistency and yields. They don’t just pay farmers fairly, they reinvest in them, helping to create better product through better farming practices for the local climate. What works in Columbia will not necessarily work in Indonesia to get the best from the beans and with so much of the flavour coming from the soil, varietal, fermentation, etc. Nespresso invest in all parts of the coffee chain including shipping which any bean to bar maker knows is a big issue.
The event itself as a launch for Nespresso was fantastic but learning about now Nespresso works, makes their coffee, partners with farmers, invests in research and more made a huge impact on me. As the owner of a Nespresso machine that I bought myself, I’m reassured of the choice I made.
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