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Like many fans of Cuban coffee, you may want to make your own cafetico at home. But can you buy Cuban coffee in the U.S.?
Cuban coffee beans are generally not available in the U.S. although Cuban-style coffee is sold all over the country. Most brands that sell Cuban coffee don’t use beans from Cuba and instead focus on recreating Cuban roasting formulas to make Cuban-style coffee.
But if you want coffee that’s as close as possible to what’s available in Cuba, I’d recommend picking up a pack of La Carreta on Amazon. Although these beans are sourced from South America, their aroma and flavor are exactly like the coffees I remember from Cuba.
To learn more about Cuban coffee, why Cuban beans aren’t available, and what the best options are, keep reading!
Can You Buy Cuban Coffee In The U.S.?
Cuban coffee beans are generally (but not always) unavailable in the U.S. due to sanctions and trade policies.
Because of this, brands that sell Cuban-style coffee don’t actually get their beans from the island of Cuba. Instead, they get their beans from other countries and prepare them in a way that’s similar to what’s done in Cuba.
These factors create two different types of Cuban coffee
- coffee beans that were cultivated on the island of Cuba
- coffee beans that were prepared to make Cuban-style coffee
Let’s take a quick look at each scenario.
Access To Cuban Coffee Beans Depends On Government Policy
The terms of the U.S. embargo against Cuba prohibit many items, including coffee, from being imported. So, for over 50 years Cuban coffee really wasn’t available in the U.S.
Then, in 2016 the embargo was loosened and some imports were allowed. Nespresso quickly took advantage of the opportunity to get Cuban coffee beans into the U.S. However, in 2021 new sanctions were placed on Cuba, and in 2022 sanctions were eased again.
This back and forth makes it difficult to say when coffee imports will be allowed into the U.S. and when they’ll be prohibited.
But what we can say is that whenever Cuban coffee beans are available in the United States, you’ll need to buy them fast! Because they’ll be in limited supply and may not be available for long.
Many Popular Cuban Coffees Don’t Use Beans From Cuba
There were multiple Cuban coffee makers who immigrated from the island to the United States. After arriving, a few started their own coffee companies in the U.S.
Other brands, seeing an opportunity to sell coffee to the growing Cuban population, used Cuban roasting formulas to make their own Cuban-style coffees.
Brands like Pilon, Cafe Bustelo, and La Llave were started this way and they quickly gained popularity.
Based on that, it could be argued that the roasting and preparation methods matter more for Cuban coffee than the origin of the beans.
(If you’d like to read more about Cuban coffee brands available, check out our article “Cuban Coffee Brands“.)
Where Can I Buy Cuban Coffee In the US?
When it comes to buying Cuban coffee in the U.S., there are two main options available.
- Buy it from a grocery store
- Order it online
Buying Cuban Coffee From A Local Supermarket
You won’t find Cuban coffee beans in Walmart, but you will find popular Cuban-style coffees like Pilon and Cafe Bustelo.
And if your city has a Latino supermarket, you’ll have an even wider selection of Cuban coffees to choose from.
Find Cuban Coffee Online
While Cuban coffees are more difficult to find in stores, they’re easier to find online.
For example, Amazon has several Cuban-style coffees available that you probably won’t find in stores, such as Cuba Mia.
Also, keep in mind that while Cuban coffee beans can’t be imported into the U.S., it’s often available in other countries like Canada. Finding a site you trust that will sell Cuban coffee to you is another option to get authentic Cuban coffee beans.
The Market For Cuban Coffee Beans Is Limited
The sanctions against Cuba aren’t the only reason their coffee beans are hard to come by. Another reason is that the island’s coffee production has declined significantly and is now mostly for domestic consumption.
In the early 20th century coffee was one of Cuba’s major exports and it was sold at premium prices in markets all over the world. However, after the Cuban revolution, the coffee industry began to decline.
Following that, the U.S. embargo and then the collapse of the Soviet Union hurt the coffee industry even further.
It’s only been in the last few years that the Cuban government has begun to invest in their coffee industry, however, the production is nowhere near what it used to be.
So, even if companies start selling Cuban coffee in the U.S. the supply is too low for it to be widely available.
What Makes Cuban Coffee Different?
What makes Cuban coffee special isn’t necessarily the growing region or climate conditions. It’s primarily the roast, how it’s made and how it’s brewed.
Traditional Cuban coffee is made from a blend of arabica and robusta beans that have been roasted and ground to precise specifications.
The coffee is traditionally brewed in Moka Pots which results in its distinctive dark color and full-bodied flavor. Brown sugar is also added to Cuban coffee which makes it sweet and gives it an almost syrupy texture.
Luckily, since Cuban coffee’s distinctness comes from how it’s prepared, you can enjoy authentic Cuban coffee without having to find authentic Cuban beans.
What Brands Of Cuban Coffee Are Available In The US?
There are several Cuban-style coffees available in the United States. Here are a few to consider, you can find them on Amazon:
However, if you’re not sure which one to try, we’ve got two great recommendations.
First, we’d recommend Pilon.
What’s noteworthy about this one is that it has the unmistakable aroma of chocolate. It also brews a deep dark and rich cafecito that’s phenomenal.
Our second recommendation is La Carreta.
It doesn’t have the same chocolaty aroma or flavors, but it smells exactly like the coffee I’m familiar with from Cuba. It tastes great and is the most similar to authentic Cuban beans.
(To read about our experience trying all these Cuban coffees check out our article “Cuban Coffee Brands“.)
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- Trade policies and sanctions determine the availability of Cuban coffee beans in the U.S.
- Many coffee companies offer Cuban-style coffees which are popular and widely available
- Pilon is the coffee we’d recommend based on aroma and flavor
- La Carreta is the coffee we’d recommend for its similarity to authentic Cuban coffee beans
Cheers Coffee Lovers!
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Idalmis is co-owner of Coffee Break Lovers. She is a Cuban coffee enthusiast that is passionate about coffee and coffee culture.