Coffee production in Cuba

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Cuban coffee
A cup of espresso prepared with Cuban coffee

Coffee has been grown in Cuba since the mid-18th century. Boosted by French farmers fleeing the revolution in Haiti, coffee farms expanded from the western plains to the nearby mountain ranges.[1] Coffee production in eastern Cuba significantly increased during the 19th and early 20th centuries. At its peak production, Cuba exported more than 20,000 metric tons (22,046 short tons) of coffee beans per year in the mid 1950s. After the Cuban Revolution and the nationalization of the coffee industry, coffee production slowly began to decline until it reached all time lows during the Great Recession. Once a major Cuban export, it now makes up an insignificant portion of Cuban trade. By the 21st century, 92 percent of the country's coffee was grown in area of the Sierra Maestra mountains. All Cuban coffee is exported by Cubaexport, which pays regulated prices to coffee growers and processors.


José Antonio Gelabert introduced the first coffee plant to Cuba in 1748. By 1791, French colonists, fleeing the abolition of slavery during the Haitian Revolution, introduced better coffee production methods to Cuba.[2] Coffee production in eastern Cuba during the 19th and early 20th centuries "resulted in the creation of a unique cultural landscape, illustrating a significant stage in the development of this form of agriculture." As such, UNESCO has listed the "Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the South-East of Cuba" as a World Heritage Site since 2000.[3] Prior to the Castro era, Cuba’s coffee industry prospered. In the mid-1950s, Cuba was exporting more than 20,000 metric tons (22,046 short tons) of coffee beans per year.[4] Cuban coffee was sold at premium prices on world markets.[4] Much of that coffee was exported to Europe, particularly the Netherlands and Germany.

Following Cuban Revolution in 1959, coffee production in Cuba declined[5] largely because of the dissolution of large farms and a disincentive for small farm production.[6] As a result, Cuban coffee producers began mixing coffee beans with roasted peas.[5] Mixing coffee beans with peas remained a staple in Cuba until pure coffee returned to the Cuban ration books in 2005.[5] Rising Robusta prices led to the return of roasted peas to Cuban coffee in 2011.[5]

In 1962 the United States placed an embargo on all goods imported from Cuba,[4] further damaging the Cuban coffee industry.[6] During the embargo, Cuban coffee was not prevalent in the US market.[4]

The collapse of the Soviet Union caused a major decline in Cuban coffee production, going from 440,000 60-pound bags of coffee in the 1989–1990 production cycle to eventually reaching an all-time low of 7,000 bags during the 2007–2008 cycle. The production of Cuban coffee has since rebounded to between 100,000 and 130,000 bags per year due to government investment in increased coffee production including raising coffee prices and providing better equipment.[6]


Both robusta (pictured) and arabica are produced in Cuba

By the 21st century, 92 percent of the country's coffee was grown in areas of the Sierra Maestra mountains, especially under forest canopies.[7] The coffee harvest runs September through January, peaking in October and November.[8]

The island produces both arabica and robusta beans, with most production coming from small family farms.[9] In 2003, Cuba began exporting organic coffee to Europe and Japan, with more than 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres) certified as organic. Centered in the eastern portion of the island, the area produced 93 metric tons (103 short tons) of organic coffee that was selling at prices 40% higher than the standard Cuban coffee.[10]

According to the FAO, the total number of hectares where coffee is harvested in Cuba has fallen from 170,000 hectares (420,000 acres) in 1961 to 28,000 hectares (69,000 acres) in 2013.[11]


All coffee from Cuba is exported by Cubaexport, which pays a government-regulated, fixed price to coffee growers and processors for their coffee.[12] Currently, Japan and France are Cuba’s major coffee export markets, with smaller amounts going to Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand.[12]

Domestic distribution is currently limited to two ounces of coffee rations every 15 days for Cuban citizens.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Luxner, Larry (September–October 2001). "Cuba: A Once-Proud Coffee Industry Falls On Hard Times". Tea & Coffee Trade Journal. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
  2. ^ "Where Does Cuban Coffee Come From?". University of Florida Interactive Media Lab. Archived from the original on 10 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  3. ^ "Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the South-East of Cuba". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d Viser, Matt (18 December 2014). "Will Americans be able to taste Cuban-grown coffee?". Boston Globe. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d Carroll, Rory (6 May 2011). "Hard times mean Cuban coffee tastes of peas again". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Wallengren, Maja (29 November 2014). "EXCLUSIVE: From Cuba With Love — How is Cuba's Coffee Industry Being Rebuild?". Spilling the beans. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  7. ^ "Cuban Coffee". Hancock & Abberton. Archived from the original on 23 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  8. ^ Craggs, Ryan (29 October 2012). "Hurricane Sandy Decimates Cuban Coffee Crop". Huffington Post. Reuters. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
  9. ^ Matyas, Jo (27 October 2007). "The Dark Secret of Cuban Coffee". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
  10. ^ "Cuba Enters Market for Organic Products". Granma. 23 May 2003. Archived from the original on 6 June 2012. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
  11. ^ "FAOSTAT". Food And Agriculture Organization Of The United Nations Statistics Division. Note: Found by selecting the necessary filters. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  12. ^ a b "Cuba's Food & Agriculture Situation Report" (PDF). Office of Global Analysis, FAS, USDA. March 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  13. ^ "Cafecito & Colada". University of Miami School of Communication. Archived from the original on 24 October 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2015.

Further reading[edit]

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