Coffee in Cuba? Not Even in the Dollar Stores

Cubita coffee could only be found at a high price and in beans. There was no trace of the ground. (Networks)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 9 December 2021 — Two days before the end of the month of November, Pedro went to buy coffee at the bodega [ration store], but was very upset when they told him there was none. “No, there is no coffee now, you have to wait for it to come back in,” the clerk explained as he handed back the ration book.

The Havanan was not satisfied with the explanation, but shrugged and started looking for coffee elsewhere. Last month something similar had happened with the sugar, which he could not buy either because, they told him, “it got wet,” although he knew well that there were no leaks in that establishment and that it had not rained those days.

Pedro remembered that in the Sorpresas store, located in the Plaza Carlos III shopping center, they sell coffee in foreign currency. On one occasion he went there for an emergency and bought a couple of small packages for $1.75, so he decided to use the magnetic card of a freely convertible currency (MLC) account in which he keeps some savings in foreign currency, thanks to the remittances that his emigrated daughter sends to him.

The store window displays large packages of Cubita at $14.65, a fairly high price for the retiree, but he still decides to enter the establishment. To his surprise, there is no line, a rarity in this busy center, and the saleswoman is distracted playing on her mobile phone.

“Grandpa, that coffee is in beans. We haven’t had any ground for days,” says the employee to the disappointed customer. “Now what do I do? I have nowhere to grind the beans, a machine for that nowadays is like a museum object,” Pedro laments. The young woman suggests that he go to the Gran Manzana hotel, where there is a shop dedicated to nationally produced coffee. “Let’s see if you’re lucky …”, she says when they say goodbye.

The journey continues, and Pedro, already eager to find coffee, takes a taxi to Old Havana. But when he arrives at the hotel and sees the store without lines, he fears the worst. “Sir, we don’t have coffee in any format and apparently this situation is going to last a long time,” says the worker.

Pedro, who was thinking of spending money and spending extra money to get his favorite drink, then realizes that the prospect is even worse and he will have to resort to the informal market to get imported coffee, which today is sold at exorbitant prices.

The Cuba-Café Company warned this Tuesday of delays in the arrivals of imports and in the deliveries of the businesses that process the beans, which has harmed “the retail distribution of ’mixed’ coffee* for the family basket.”

The company assured that the December coffee will be sold in its month, because an improvement was already noticeable and, for the next day 25, it is hoping that the problem has been solved. But Pedro had to invest 600 pesos this Wednesday in a 10-ounce (284-gram) package purchased at Revolico, while it remains to be seen if the coffee that was missing in November will be delivered to the warehouses or if Cubans without foreign currency can be put to their lips to a cup of Cuban coffee.

*Translator’s note: “Mixed” coffee includes non-coffee ingredients, for example ground peas.


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