How to Order Cuban Coffee in Miami
This post is for all the Miami visitors who are intrigued by Cuban coffee and about how to order it. If you are in Miami, specially if you are a foodie, you should take a break from the Starbucks. I actually love Startbucks, but I personally only visit the Starbucks in Miami when: (1) someone else is paying for it, (2) I am desperate for a Cuban coffee and there is no Cuban coffee in the near vicinity, (3) I am not ordering espresso (aka Cuban coffee), or (4) I need to deplete a Starbucks gift card. To tell you the truth, 2 rarely happens, as there is always a Cuban restaurant nearby. Here is a tutorial on how to order Cuban coffee for all of you Cuban coffee virgins, so you can truly enjoy your Cuban coffee while you are visiting my Miami.
The Walk-Up Window
Obviously, all Cuban restaurants have Cuban coffee and you can certainly order it after your meal. I personally enjoy my Cuban coffee with a flan, whenever I get a chance. However, you do not have to sit down at the restaurant to enjoy Cuban coffee. You can have your meal in the restaurant of your choice, drive or walk to any Cuban restaurant, and order your Cuban coffee at the walk-up window (ventanita). But you really don't even have to have a meal before you enjoy your Cuban coffee. As a matter of fact, having Cuban coffee is something we do in Miami at all times of the day. Having Cuban coffee in Miami is sort of a social event or ritual, whether at home, at the office, at the walk-up window or inside the restaurant.
What is the walk-up window? I guess I find it to be self-explanatory since I have been going to Cuban restaurants since I was in diapers. But you don't need much explanation besides knowing that the walk-up window is where you order your Cuban coffee. Here is a photo of a walk-up window, so have an idea of what it looks like. This is the walk-up window at the Versailles Restaurant in Miami.
The Choices and How to Order
So for all of you Starbucks aficionados, forget the Starbucks lingo. There is no tall, grande or venti. There is no single shot, double shot, triple shot or any type of shot. There are simply four choices for your Cuban coffee: cafecito, colada, cortadito or café con leche. Let me emphasize (again) that the word "shot" is not part of your order.
Cafecito or Café Cubano
Cafecito or café cubano is simply a single serving of Cuban coffee with sugar. Whether at the walk-up window, inside the restaurant or at home, it is served in an espresso (demitasse) ceramic cup. If you want your cafecito with sugar, just order "un cafecito, por favor" (one cafecito, please). If you absolutely want no sugar in your coffee, or you would rather add the sugar yourself, just order "un cafecito sin azucar, por favor" (one cafecito without sugar, please).
At some Cuban restaurants that serve lots of tourists, you might find that they already serve you the coffee without the sugar. You can always ask "¿Tiene azucar el café?" (Does it come with sugar?) just to make sure.
A colada is actually a cafecito with sugar for about four to six people. A colada is served in a Styrofoam cup and is accompanied by a stack of four to six tiny plastic cups. Don't be fooled by the size of the Styrofoam cup and think you can down it all yourself, as if it were an American coffee. The tiny plastic cups come with the Styrofoam cup for a reason. Believe me when I tell you that if you drink all the contents of the complete Styrofoam cup and you are new to Cuban coffee, you will be feeling it within minutes.
To order a colada, simply say "una colada, por favor". Usually a colada is ordered by a group of people who show up at the window together. Perhaps you showed up at the window with the intention of buying a cafecito just for yourself, but someone you knew was already there or happens to be passing by. Then you as the locals do at ventanitas: socialize and order a colada.
Open the Styrofoam cup and fill up one of the tiny cups for your friend and one for you. After your friend downs the contents of his/her tiny cup in what it usually takes about one nanosecond, offer a second shot and fill up his/her little cup again. Obviously, do the same thing for yourself too. If it is many of you drinking coffee together, then you might have to order several coladas.