In the year and a half since President Barack Obama announced that Cuba and the United States would work toward ending the Cold War-era embargo, the two nations have taken steps toward normalizing relations – starting with easing travel restrictions to the Caribbean nation and flying the U.S. flag at the newly reopened embassy. Soon, the U.S. will finally see – or better yet taste – Cuba’s rich products. Known for exporting rum, sugar, cigars, and coffee, Cuba’s popular products have been out of reach for most U.S. citizens for the past 50 years. With recently modified importation regulations, one of Cuba’s main exports will make its way to American kitchen pantries. In a pod.
Back in April, the U.S. State Department tweaked its policy to include more eligible items that can be imported from Cuba and added coffee to the growing list. This set off colossal coffee distributor Nestle Nespresso’s Spidey senses, and now, the Swiss-based company will bring Cuban coffee stateside in their signature pods – which is only compatible with their espresso appliances. According to USA Today, Guillaume Le Cunff, president of Nespresso USA, said he’s excited that Nestle will be the first company to provide Cuban coffee in the U.S. It’s a good thing he distinguished he’s talking about corporations, because Cubans in Miami have been supplying Cuban coffee for decades. Though in this case, it will be Cuban coffee beans that are being used and not a product like Café Bustelo.
The exclusive espresso roast – titled Cafecito De Cuba – will first be sold in limited quantities come fall, but the company hopes it will be permanently added to their roster. “Our customers expect us to bring new coffee experiences, and they expect to be surprised,” Le Cunff said. “We know that with our U.S. customers, there is a high level of curiosity and excitement to have this coffee. So we expect a high level of response.”
The former U.S.-Cuban trade policies has influenced the nation’s coffee industry. Currently, they’re not set up to sustain a massive increase in demand. Small, independent coffee farms sell their products to the Cuban government, which they then export or distribute around the island. Nespresso has taken this into consideration. In an effort to help build local Cuban coffee farms, Nespresso has teamed up with TechnoServe, a Washington-based non-profit development organization. TechnoServe already assists coffee growers in Colombia, South Sudan, Kenya, and Ethiopia and has reached out to Cuban officials to begin a relationship. Both Nespresso and TechnoServe hope to improve production processes in Cuban coffee farmers, thus increasing their product output. “We’re really eager to be in listening mode and start to understand the state of industry and how we can be most helpful,” said David Browning, senior vice president for strategic initiatives at TechnoServe.
Coffee pods are certainly not the most environmentally friendly way to taste the flavors of Cuba, but at the very least, Nespresso is taking a step toward helping local Cuban coffee growers consciously expand their farms.