Bitter Coffee / Yoani Sánchez

To have a sip of coffee in the morning is the national equivalent of breakfast. We can lack everything, bread, butter and even the ever unobtainable milk, but to not have this hot, stimulating crop to wake up to is the preamble to a bad day, the reason for leaving the house bad-tempered and fit to burst. My grandparents, my parents, all the adults I saw as a child, drank cup after cup of that dark liquid, while they talked. Whenever anyone came to the house, the coffee was put on the stove because the ritual of offering someone a cup was as important as giving them a hug or inviting them in.

A few weeks ago Raul Castro announced that they were going to begin mixing other ingredients in the ration market coffee. It was nice to hear a president speak of these culinary matters, but mostly it was the source a popular joke, that he would say something officially that has been common practice – for years – in the roasting plants of the entire Island. Not only citizens have been adulterating our most important national drink for decades, the State has also applied its ingenuity without declaring it on the label. Nor will they use the adjective “Cuban” in the distribution of this stimulating beverage, as it’s no secret to anyone that this country imports large quantities from Brazil and Columbia. Instead of the 60 thousand tons of coffee once produced here, today we only manage to pick about six thousand tons.

In recent weeks “the black nectar of the white gods” — as it once was called – has become scarce. Housewives have had to revive the practice of roasting peas to ensure the bitter sip we need just to open our eyes. Whether it can be called coffee, we don’t know, but at least it is something hot and bitter to drink in the morning.