Time to Drink Coffee? / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

On this Sunday morning, I savor a good cup of coffee given to me by good friends who have offered me a safe place to stay while my wife informs me that police officials are looking for me back in San German. I will share some opinions with you all about how the history of coffee has changed in my country.

As a child I was raised by my Grandmother Maria, who would send me off to school, along with my other cousins,after a good cup of coffee and a piece of buttered bread, cheese, or some sort of meat that may have been left over from the previous night.

Now, the Cuban government has once again promoted coffee mixed with “substitutes” as the only way of drinking the dark liquid which is so popular amongst Cuban families. During these days I can’t help but remember the beginnings of the 1980’s when coffee was sold in grains in Cuba. Every fifteen days a truck would distribute some rationed ounces of this coffee which people would take home, toast it, and grind it. But that is history, a past which will not return for now to the island.

Drinking pure coffee over here these days is just as dangerous as killing a cow to eat its meat. Traveling from one town to another with grains of coffee in your backpack constitutes taking part in “illegal business”. If an inspector or a police officer catches you, the fine for “illegality” given to you can never be absolved. I know people who get headaches if they don’t at least drink one small cup of coffee per day. I have even met people who toast plantains as a substitute for coffee.

For those who didn’t know, in Holguin there was a coffee toaster in the center of the city, near the provincial Pediatric Hospital. The smoke which would spread throughout the surroundings was overwhelming, it was a toxic and bothersome residue whenever the white beans were being toasted, which happened often.

As far as I have understood, the International Coffee Organization recently stated that coffee which has been mixed more than 5% should not be considered coffee. This is pretty alarming for us if we take into consideration the little chart which is stamped on the envelope of rationed coffee which says that is has been mixed 50%.

On Cuban television, as well as in provincial newspapers, the same defenders of the same misdemeanors as always have come out. In the “Ahora” newspaper of Holguin someone explained how to prepare coffee in the coffee machine, as if it was the same thing as trying to figure out how to set up a computer or how to move around in a space shuttle. The article made allusions to a few weeks ago when various of these coffee packs exploded. An official from a provincial company in Havana even went on to say that before such a measure was taken, the coffee has been mixed even more than 50%, forgetting to cite that this information was never announced to the people.

According to the misinformation services, just as much as the TV or the written media, we Cubans should agree on each measure taken without protesting. And, a very interesting fact according these same services- each action that is taken is in favor of the people.

We mustn’t be surprised if tomorrow they announce that rice will be sold mixed with some other sort of substitute.

Translated by Raul G.

10 July 2011