Now that the Obama administration has loosened the terms of the US embargo against Cuba, food and beverage companies are getting ready to bring the country's signature items to the United States. And at the forefront of these efforts is Nestle, which launched a Cuban coffee Nespresso pod last week. The coffee pod is a take on the Cafecito Cubano, an espresso drink that is popular throughout the island. Nespresso is the first company to bring Cuban coffee to the United States since 1958. The pods contain coffee from small, entrepreneurial Cuban coffee farms, and are extremely limited in terms of quantity.
The regulations surrounding Cuban coffee exports to the United States have eased considerably since President Barack Obama announced a renewed relationship with Havana in 2015. This has helped small growers in Granma and Santiago de Cuba export their wares through third-party companies. And that's where Nespresso comes in—the coffee brand began working with small growers to create an espresso blend that will be available for use in the company's OriginalLine coffee machines. The beans are shipped to Nespresso's European facilities, where they are processed, packed, and shipped to the United States for sale. The first run of Cafecito de Cuba pods has already sold out, but Nespresso says that they will release more units this fall.
Coffee production in Cuba is somewhat small, but it is far from nonexistent. The country harvests 100,000 bags of coffee per year, with each bag containing roughly 132 lbs of green coffee beans. By way of comparison, Colombia—the world's biggest grower of Arabica coffee—produces 13.5 million bags per year. But the Cuban coffee market could expand rapidly if exporters are able to bring in product to the United States. But for now, major coffee retailers such as Starbucks have not suggested that they are ready to enter the Cuban coffee market quite yet.
And even Nespresso's Cuban coffee experiment is small for the time being. The pods are only available in limited quantities, and the company has not divulged its plans for future supplies. A company spokesperson, however, suggested that Nespresso's cuban coffee initiative won't be a one-off.
"We want consumers in the U.S. to experience this incredible coffee and to enjoy it now and for years to come," said Guillaume Le Cunff, Nespresso USA president, who suggests that his company wants to establish long-standing relationships with Cuban growers.
So if you're looking to be one of the first Americans to put a little Cuban in your cup, you'd better act quick. That, and you'd better make some room on your counter for another coffee-maker, too.