It’s been more than ten years since I moved to Miami, but I still remember my first cafecito like it was yesterday. Someone in my office walked up and asked if I’d like some coffee and I was like “heck yea!” as they whipped out this thimble sized plastic cup and poured about ten drops of what looked like thin motor oil and handed it to me. ”Ummm, thanks.” (I think). And off they went, serving up thimbles of watery motor oil down the hall, bringing smiles out of otherwise gloomy coworkers. I drank the thimble down in one swig and went on to work. I had just moved here from Germany where coffee time was a big to-do, sort of like English tea-time, so this plastic cup drink as you go idea was a new thing. But I liked it!
The little guy really packed a whollop! That was pure caffeine in there. The cafecito turns out to be the social sharing of Cuban Coffee (or Café Cubano) which is a version of espresso sweetened with sugar. It’s quite a social event, quick and fun, sort of like a cigarette break out the back door.
My husband found out the hard way about the potency of Cuban coffee. He didn’t realize that a Colada, which still looked like a small cup of coffee to us Gringo, was actually about five Cafecitos, in one cup. Nicely pre-packed so that you could share them with all of your office-mates. Drinking an entire one wired him for 72 hours. Remember, these are for sharing!
If straight up cafecito is too much for you, ask for a Cortadito, which adds a shot of milk, making it a smooth, slightly creamier drink.
I quickly learned that if you didn’t want the rush of crack (not that I’ve done it, I’m just imagining here), that a Café con Leche was more my style. Café con Leche isn’t much larger of a portion than a Cortadio, but the potency of the espresso is not nearly so strong, and they add about a half cup of sugar to it, heaped in by the spoonful. Now this stuff is tasty. If you really don’t want the stronger taste of espresso, you can ask for a Café Americano, which is the only way you are going to get a regular coffee (if they even have it).
Drinking and sharing Café Cubano is a very social and Miami thing to do. There is a shop with an exterior window on just about every corner and if you don’t find that, many shops and other places have a little counter set up somewhere to get you your fix. My local one is the 18th St Café, a portable counter store inside a shop that sells one over everything. (I’m the mayor there on Foursquare by the way!) There never seems to be a bad time for one, but mid morning and mid-afternoon seem especially popular times. If you do, remember, don’t drink the Colada by yourself!
coffee stand image courtesy of Austinevan.
cafe con leche image courtesy of Mariosp