Roasting Coffee in Cuba

I’m not a coffee drinker.  I’ve never liked coffee, although I have always loved the smell of it, especially brewing outside over a campfire.  I always thought the taste to be bitter and rather disgusting.  Until I tried Cuban coffee.  It is so smooth!  Of course, the heaping spoonful of honey or sugar with it helps!  The flavor is so rich and warm, and the coffee is always made with love.  That is why it is so yummy!

 
Coffee, a Cuban Cultural Tradition

No matter the time of day, when you enter a Cuban’s casa, you are invited to sit in the rocking chair and coffee is always offered.  It is made in a Moka pot called a cafetera and it is strong!  It is served in a small taza (coffee cup), usually with a generous helping of sugar or fresh, organic honey.  It’s the BEST I’ve ever tasted! I always bring some back home with me, both the coffee and the honey!

 
Roasting Coffee the Guajira Way

During my recent Support for the Cuban People experience, I had an amazing opportunity to visit a farm near Bahia Honda in Artemisa Province. There, I “helped” roast some coffee. I bought 10 pounds of green coffee beans for the equivalent of $20. José, the owner of the farm, was so happy to have the opportunity to show me how to roast coffee the guajiro (Cuban countryman, farmer) way.

Jose with his daughter, Dayneris, and granddaughter, Olivia

José, his daughter, Dayneris, and granddaughter, Olivia

 
Milling and Cleaning the Coffee

We started with the raw coffee beans with the outer shell on the beans.  We milled the beans just a bit in a large mortar (hollowed-out tree trunk about 1/3 M in diameter and about 1/4 M in depth) and pestle (tree branch about 6 cm in diameter and 1 Meter in length).  The milling removed the outer shell of the bean.  With the outer shell cracked and open, we put the beans in a large, flat aluminum tray.  Like cleaning chaff from wheat, José tossed in the wind to remove the outer shells.  This in itself is an art because it is very easy to “spill the beans!”  At the same time, the open fire was built and allowed to burn down to a mix of coals and burning wood.

Raw beans that need cleaning in the wind                 

           

 

Roasting the Coffee

After the green beans were sufficiently cleaned, we put them in a large cast-iron pot over the open fire.  I say “we”, but mostly I watched, filmed, photographed, oohed and awed!           Roasting the coffee beans      

1 1/2 hours later, after gradually getting darker and darker, José spread the beans out on a clean concrete porch to cool.

The smell drifted throughout the house and yard.  Oooo, coffee, one of the best smells ever!

 
Grinding and Brewing the Coffee

After cooling the beans, José ground them perfectly and uniformly in an old electric grinder, and caught the ground coffee on a foam tray, then… Yum!  Ready for testing!  

                                   

 
Perfection!