Think Cuba, think cigars, rum and coffee. Now, Cuban-grown coffee is on its way to the United States for the first time in more than 50 years. That's the announcement Swiss-based Nespresso made this week. The coffee, straightforwardly named Cafecito de Cuba, will initially be a limited-edition espresso roast slated to be sold in the "original line" capsule form for Nespresso machines in Nespresso stores in the fall of 2016.
The president of Nespresso USA, Guillaume Le Cunff, expressed confidence that Nespresso "can drive and build this project. Ultimately, we want consumers in the U.S. to experience this incredible coffee and to enjoy it now and for years to come."
Nespresso's initiative to introduce the coffee from Cuba came after the U.S. Department of State updated in April its list of goods produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs that can be imported into the U.S. to include coffee.
Nespresso is working on the Cuban coffee initiative in partnership with TechnoServe, a nonprofit organization operating in 29 countries. TechnoServe's mission statement says the organization works "with enterprising men and women in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses and industries." Nespresso and TechnoServe have worked together previously to assist coffee farmers in Colombia, South Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia. David Browning, senior vice president for strategic initiatives at TechnoServe, has spearheaded meetings in Cuba with government officials and has inspected the small farms where Cuba's coffee is grown.
"There's a broad range of stakeholders in this," Browning explained to Cigar Aficionado, noting there's still progress needed to be made. "We've had some conversations with the government. Our next steps are to understand how we can be helpful."
Browning applauded Nespresso for not looking at the endeavor as "transactional," i.e. simply buying the coffee. Nespresso, he said, makes an investment with the environment in mind. "The ultimate goal is to support farmers in their production of sustainable coffee and contribute to expanded economic opportunities for them in the longterm."
Cuban authorities at the embassy in Washington, D.C., did not respond to requests for comment.
Cafecito de Cuba will be a dark roasted and intense coffee. It is a pure origin Grand Cru, 100 percent Cuban Arabica. Browning has tasted the coffee. He related that it was a true espresso and not like the café cubano sold in Miami's Little Havana.
"It's got wood notes that are cedar-like," Browning recounted. "It's moist, scented and fresh, and as the cup cools, the coffee gains in viscosity."
Nespresso executives said that Cuba produces extraordinary coffee. "For more than two centuries, Cuba has produced some of the greatest Arabica coffee in the world. With fertile soil and ideal climate conditions, the country offers an excellent coffee growing environment."
This coffee will be the first time Nespresso will sell coffee from Cuba. No other Cuban offerings are planned.