Abuelo makes the best coffee.
I can smell it lingering in the air as we sit around the Christmas tree opening presents. I’m an adult now, but my love for coffee didn’t begin as an adult, rather, as a child. Sounds strange, but not to a Cuban family!
At a young age, many Cuban children are introduced to café con leche—coffee with milk. It’s a smooth, bold flavored way to make coffee. It’s made in a metal Espresso maker, traditional in Spanish/Cuban culture.
After a fine Cuban meal of ropa vieja, tostones, black beans, and rice, the family enjoys guava (or flan) with a small cup of espresso or café con leche.
I remember starting to enjoy café con leche at the young age of nine. We have many family events that we gather for: baptisms, weddings, holidays, and at every celebration is great food and wonderful coffees and desserts. My first memories as a child were of the sounds of dominoes clacking and shuffling while the coffee maker brewed. It’s a part of my childhood I will never forget, and one that I share now with our newest family members. Tradition is what your family creates, and gathering together for food and drink is my Cuban family’s favorite tradition.
Want to enjoy your own café con leche? Try it at home!
Café Con Leche tips and recipe:
Use Good Coffee - Use freshly ground coffee beans of a strong variety, such as Operators Coffee C4 blend of 100% Arabica beans. This type of roast makes good, strong coffee. Don’t use coffee that comes in a can. The grind will probably be too coarse and the quality of the coffee beans is probably not the best.
Make the Coffee in an Espresso Maker - Nanopresso even has a handheld espresso maker that you can take on the go!
Fill the bottom portion of Espresso Maker with cold water. Then find the metal filter area in the middle, fill that with finely ground coffee and screw the pieces together. Place the coffee pot on the stove and heat until the water boils up into the top chamber and it fills up. When you hear air spurting and the top of the pot is full of coffee, it’s ready and you can turn the stove off.
Heat the Milk – You can heat the milk on the stove top in a pan, but that makes it a little harder to clean that up and you need to keep an eye on it so as not to “burn” the milk. It is easier to pour the milk into a large cup and put it in the microwave until it is almost boiling. Any kind of milk is fine, although some say 2% milk tastes best.
Mix the coffee and milk together. The typical proportion is about 1/3 cup of coffee to 2/3 cup of hot milk. But experiment with the portions to get the exact taste for your own palate.
Drink, and be merry.