After that café Cubano in Miami I skipped up to the roof of the Plaza Hotel on that first morning in Havana. My excitement was quickly dashed however when I learned that the “breakfast included” involved not even regular coffee but a coffee machine. You can get a cappuccino if you want! were the words my predecessor to the roof greeted me with. I won’t name names. We all had our ways of dealing with the machine, using the machine’s con leche button was quickly scrapped, G’s method created an inevitable lake in her saucer, my method—push button, wait, insert cup, remove cup before water comes out—was completely trial and error and I usually wasted a cup or 2 before it was drinkable and finally I gave up altogether. In the last days of our first stay in Havana, J and I started with breakfast on the roof then strolled across the Parque Central to a pasticceria which opened at 8. There we had a French café con leche and observed a few tourist regulars before heading back for the day’s activities. But this was not Cuban coffee either.
Included lunches usually meant café at the end, still, not a Cubano. I asked at rest stops, bars, even the best coffee in Havana, roasted on site or something at the Plaza Vieja – I ordered an espresso and it came with a bowl of sugar. It was good espresso, don’t get me wrong, but nothing was living up to that thick sweetness I encountered in Miami. I started keeping an eye on S. More experienced, surely he knew what he was getting. But his cafecitos were the same, strong but unsweetened. finally he tipped me off on the peso stall in Viñales, conveniently, AFTER we’d been there—I resolved to keep and eye out for them when we were back in Havana. There it was, on the last full day of our trip, as we trekked back to the hotel from a visit to the train station, in one of the many open doorways I saw it. A folding table with tablecloth, a thermos and a tray of small glasses. un peso, café. I stood beside a woman and put in my request. I gave her 5 centavos (about 24 pesos to the CUC almost the same as a dollar), and tasted the heavy liquid excitedly. it was perfect. The next day in my wanderings I found another cup in Centro Habana (much-needed, my sleep that last night on the top floor of Hotel Florida was intermittent). I’d finally discovered the cafecito and it was time to go.
Back home this morning I reverted to my usual routine of just coffee and cream. I poured in the half and half, but alas, it was Vanilla flavored and icky. I’ve written to Horizon about their poor package design which causes various unwanted flavors of half and half to land in our fridge. Perhaps I will forego this old habit altogether and start my morning with a jolt of espresso brewed sweet.