Cuba: ‘It Neither Tastes Like Coffee Nor Smells Like Coffee’
The relief among Sancti Spíritus consumers was short-lived following the news that coffee would once again be available at stores selling rationed products. After being out of it for months, government warehouses finally began distributing it recently. The product, which arrived at state-run stores in October, comes in a plastic package with no label and crudely sealed edges. With a grainy texture, an odd flavor and little aroma, it is a far cry from what most people would call coffee. “It leaves a sludge in the bottom of the cup that looks like river mud,” complains Lismary, a 32-year-old Sancti Spíritus resident who is among the thousands of frustrated customers.
“When a neighbor told me about it, I ran to the store, but once I saw the color, I had a bad feeling. It was very black, like it was burnt. When I opened the package, I realized it didn’t smell like much of anything. Maybe a bit like burnt bark.” Her biggest disappointment, however, came after she had brewed her first cup. “My grandmother was dying to try a shot but, when I gave it to her, her immediate reaction was, ’It neither tastes like coffee nor smells like coffee.’”
Lismary, who lives alone with her grandmother, took a photo of the two packages she had brought home. “I posted it to a neighborhood WhatsApp group, Kilo 12, that alerts us when something is delivered to the warehouse or to our local stores.” Critical comments from her neighbors poured in over the weekend, all complaining about the new coffee and making fun of its poor quality.
The complaints were directed at the Cabaiguán Roasting Plant, which recently resumed production after having stopped work last June. “What are they adding to this coffee? Charcoal, dried logs, burnt coconut shells?” wrote Luis Ernesto, a Kilo 12 member, on the WhatsApp thread. “This is happening to us because they don’t respect us,” replied another group member. Interspersed among the posts was an ad. “I have La Llave and Bustelo coffee, real coffee, home delivery. Nothing like the no-name concoction,” wrote the seller, fishing for customers in the churning waters of discontent.