Coffee Is All I Want

How sweet coffee tastes, more delicious than a thousand kisses, milder than muscatel wine. Coffee, I have to have coffee and, if somebody wants to pamper me, ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!” – Johann Sebastian Bach

By Rosa Martinez

Photo: Osmel Ramirez

HAVANA TIMES – Have you ever asked yourself what life would be like without coffee? Have you? Well, I haven’t, I haven’t imagined life without it, nor do I want to.

The thing is I’ve had a close connection to coffee ever since I was a small girl.

It’s a custom in my family to give a sip of light coffee (a sweet drink with very little caffeine) to babies after they are six months old. According to my elders, a little bit of this magical drink from time to time, prevents oral disease in children.

My brothers and sisters and I grew up eating bread with coffee for breakfast. We would impatiently wait for my grandmother to prepare the first strain of coffee. We would always be driven to despair, because we used to think that the clear coffee, that we would drink, would come before the intense flavor for the adults. But it didn’t work like that.

I remember my younger brother kicking up a real fuss one day, because he’d say that it was’t fair that the adults would drink coffee first, before the youngest ones. He cried so much out of rage that time. He later understood why we were ones to have our coffee last. This ocurred even though we were the first ones in my grandmother’s heart.

Fond memories

This delicious aroma, early in the morning, brings back very fond memories. First of all, of my closest brother, the youngest one, this confidant who I’ve always spoilt and, as a result, I’ve earned his adoration. Of course, my grandmother was the sweetest person to walk this Earth. Although I’m aware people say every grandmother is like this. My family would huddle around in the big kitchen, kicking up a ruckus from the moment the Sun rose.

My beloved grandmother passed away a long time ago, and family reunions, well they aren’t the same anymore. However, my younger brother’s love grows every day, as does my caffeine addiction.

I’ve gone through phases in my life of drinking more or less of this elixir of the gods.

I remember that when I was at high school, I was told that my teeth would turn black because I drank so much and I wanted to stop drinking it immediately. I couldn’t let my teeth get ruined because of a drink that wasn’t anything out of this world, I would tell myself back then.

When I entered university, while I was still concerned about my appearance, I needed to study long hours into the night. So, my eternal friend took a hold of my life again, this time forever.

Now, I’m a regular Cuban worker, a mother of two beautiful teenage girls, living in a country with great financial hardship. Madness has sunken its claws into me when I can’t get this and that for my family, I mean basic essentials, which are really needed to survive. Which improve, brighten up or make life more satisfying… well it’s best not to get into that.

The friend that helps me get by

I think it’s been thanks to this loyal companion of mine that my days are a little more bearable. It doesn’t matter if somebody gets sick, if it’s been hard to put a meal on the table, if school grades haven’t been the best, if a friend or relative has left Cuba, if I had to deal with family problems on my own…

My coffee is there, by my side. It makes my heart beat slower and it soothes my soul.

However, it’s been a few days since I’ve had a sip. The Hola coffee brand (mixed coffee and chickpeas) ran out at the bodega rations store a while ago, and even though it’s been criticized a lot, everybody wants it now. I used to have the option of buying the coffee beans and for a neighbor to roast it. But this possibility has also disappeared, you can’t find it anywhere for any price. I only had the dollar stores left, and there, I had to get it with more pain (dolor) than dollars.

However, before going to the store, I wanted to find out why this grain is in such shortage. Taking into account that here in Oriente (Santiago being the largest grower) 90% of all national coffee is produced. We never experienced such coffee shortages, not even during the toughest moments in the “Special Period” crisis of the ‘90s.

I looked on the Internet for a few days straight, trying to find some information. However, all I could find were some old news articles. All of them speak about coffee production growing and an increase in exports to new markets. But like I told you, these were old news articles.

Once again its the people’s fault…

Today, I searched again and boom! I came across a recent article, from just a few days before. It was published on the official Cubadebate website. I read and reread the article to find out the reasons for coffee shortages on the national market. As well as in my kitchen.

I couldn’t believe it. According to Antonio Aleman Blanco, the general director of state-led company Cuba-Cafe, one of the reasons for coffee shortages today in Cuban homes is social distancing. He said it has led to Cubans drinking more coffee. That’s to say, I’m also to blame…

Read more posts by Rosa Martinez here.

Rosa Martínez

Rosa Martinez: I am another Havana Times contributing writer, university professor and mother of two beautiful and spoiled girls, who are my greatest joy. My favorite passions are reading and to write and thanks to HT I’ve been able to satisfy the second. I hope my posts contribute towards a more inclusive and more just Cuba. I hope that someday I can show my face along with each of my posts, without the fear that they will call me a traitor, because I’m not one.

7 thoughts on “Coffee Is All I Want

  • October 31, 2020 at 6:36 pm

    I would love to send you, over the internet, a kilo of the rich, dark coffee that I buy in Canada. You would love the taste and the aroma. We dream. Dreaming about coffee: could be worse. At least, we dream. Love your writing, Rosa. All the best to you and your family, and the girls.

  • October 25, 2020 at 11:07 pm

    In response to Irene Pasnak, yes you can mail coffee to Cuba, but the chances of its reaching the address to which you send it are zero. The squirrels in the Cuban Postal (Correo) system, will however welcome it.

  • October 25, 2020 at 11:03 pm

    One wonders what Ken Edwards thought about the Guanahacabibes peninsula?

  • October 25, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    If Rosa could give me her address in Guantonamo I would send her a bag of pure Cubita a superbe coffee we buy in kilo bags here in Canada . We have been to Cuba 21 times and cycled the whole island several times . It is so sad what has happened to such a beautiful island and wonderful people .

  • October 25, 2020 at 11:55 am

    Can coffee be mailed to Cuba in a parcel? Please let me know
    Thank You

  • October 25, 2020 at 10:08 am

    This is the second article I have read in HT about coffee in Cuba. It just goes to show the readers how important this caffeine drink is to Cubans and its historical significance in their culture.

    Moreover, the salient point being that Cuban coffee should be easily and readably available to all the population since it is generously grown in some of the most hospitable coffee climate in the world, but because of economic mismanagement and incompetence, the Cuban propaganda machine blames, without shame, ordinary Cubans, like Rosa Martinez, for coffee’s demise: “According to Antonio Aleman Blanco, the general director of state-led company Cuba-Cafe, one of the reasons for coffee shortages today in Cuban homes is social distancing.”

    Imagine that “social distancing” being a cause for coffee shortages in Cuban homes. That excuse is laughable if it wasn’t so strangely, sad. A university professor wishing to have a caffeine cup in the morning is denied that little luxury and indirectly blamed for the coffee shortage because of an illogical, irresponsible, insane, reason.

    If that is a viable and truthful reason, was there not shortages of Cuban coffee prior to the pandemic, prior to social distancing? Pre-pandemic, I remember going from shop to shop looking for Cubita coffee and it was not available anywhere. The only place one could purchase this coffee brand, certainly prior the pandemic, was in rich, resort hotel shops and Cuban airports: Cubita coffee only for those fortunate who could afford foreign travel.

    I, like Carlyle, make sure when I visit Cuba to bring coffee. The Cubans I mingle with have taken a liking to Tim Horton’s coffee not that it is any better than Cubita (black packaged Cuban coffee) but, I suppose, it is different and is available for them when I visit. Absolutely, Cubita the strong Cuban coffee has a very strong, pungent aroma, tastes great, and surely packs a punch as an early morning wake up call, as Rosa explained.

    The substitute “coffee”, a mix of so called coffee and dried up, pulverized brewed chickpeas (yum, yum), which Cubans now drink has to be, unfortunately, tolerated otherwise warm water tea will have to do.

    Shortages of coffee and shortages of real bread. A medical doctor recently wrote here in HT of his negative humiliating experience trying to buy a simple loaf of bread as a little girl near by simply drooled at his “fortunate“ purchase. These manufactured, unnecessary shortages must make life so unbearable for not just professional people such as Rosa, a university professor, and the medical doctor but for all those much, much less financially fortunate: the majority of Cubans.

    When will these unnecessary, preventable agonies stop?

  • October 24, 2020 at 10:43 pm

    My wife provides me with a list of things to take home to Cuba from Canada. The first is coffee, so I go to a Canadian store and for CAN $19.99, purchase 1000gm packs of – guess what – Cubita

    Other requirements include: butter, almonds, dried soups, dried milk powder, a very long list of off the shelf medical products, toothpaste, tooth brushes, bath sponges, blue fine point pens, a calendar and most recently, for the Covid, face masks. Finally, if space and weight restrictions can be met, fill up the two cases and carry-on with food.

    The inefficiency of GAESA coupled with the policies of the PCC, make even what are regarded in capitalist countries as everyday requirements into as Rosa describes, unavailable luxuries. Yet there are those who subscribe to these pages, who talk with admiration of the Castro regime – so easy when you don’t have to live as Cubans do !

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