Puerto Rican Coffee: time to earn your coffee passport!

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The Puerto Rican coffee country doesn’t play a major role in coffee as is not as famous as any Central/South American coffee producing country and cannot benefit from high altitudes. In fact, it can produce good coffee better than you would expect.

The country has a long history behind as coffee was first introduced in 1736 when it was a Spanish colony.

Puerto Rican coffee production

If we had to put in a chart how the coffee production performed from the very beginning until where it is now, we would easily see a kind of “rollercoaster” situation.

This is, unfortunately, due to various reasons that happened in the past, such as labour shortage, civil wars, drought, production inflation and last but not least, plantations blew away from hurricanes.

Even if the country is still facing challenging times and although most of the coffee of the country is imported rather than produced, the Puerto Rican coffee industry is booming with new coffee shops, skilled baristas hence more awareness on what it takes to produce high-quality coffee.

The main regions responsible for the production of Puerto Rican coffee are San Sebastian, Las Marias and Lares while other coffee regions include Adjuntas, Ponce, Jayuya and Yauco.

Puerto Rican people tend to love medium/dark coffee as they prefer a strong/bold taste with low acidity. Generally, coffee tastes chocolatey, nutty with a hint of caramel notes.

Three different drinks are popular in Puerto Rico which are espresso, cafe con Leche, and cortadito. Everyone knows and loves good old-fashioned espresso, so we will focus on the other two for the purposes of your coffee passport.

Cafe con Leche

cafe con lecheCafe con Leche literally translates to coffee with milk and it is a pretty accurate description for this Puerto Rican coffee.

A Cafe con Leche uses scalded whole milk to counter the bitter, acidic taste of strongly brewed espresso coffee. After brewing, sugar is added to taste.

Most traditionally, a dark roast espresso will be used to give the coffee a rich and deep flavour. When the strong coffee is combined with sweetly heated whole milk and dashed with sugar, it tastes like bliss.

The real trick to a genuine cafe con Leche is using ultra-pasteurized milk like they do in Puerto Rico. This vastly affects the flavour outcomes. It is often served with a sugary pastry or a light sandwich. Puerto Ricans drink this beverage at any time of day, just like what most of us do with regular coffee. The difference is that, unlike American coffee, cafe con Leche is meant to be drunk at any time of the day. But attempting our own cafe con leche can be just another excuse for us to have coffee in the afternoon.

How to make authentic cafe con Leche

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Puerto Rican espresso
  • 1/2 cup whole, ultra-pasteurized milk
  • Sugar to taste
  • Pinch of salt optional

Directions:

  1. Pack your espresso maker with Puerto Rican espresso and brew according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  2. In a saucepan, heat milk until just before boiling. Do not let the milk boil. Remove the milk from heat and transfer to a serving cup
  3. Combine the espresso and the heated milk and add sugar to taste.

Cortadito

cortaditoA cortadito is a Puerto Rican coffee that contains equal amounts of steamed milk and coffee. You might be thinking that this is exactly like a cafe con Leche, but you are mistaken. A cortadito brews espresso and sugar together whereas, in a cafe con Leche, the sugar is added after the espresso has been brewed.
A cortadito is also a smaller serving size and contains less milk than a Cafe con Leche. Unlike a latte or cappuccino, the steamed milk used for a cortadito is not textured to foam. To make this dessert coffee even sweeter, try using evaporated milk instead of regular whole milk.
While Moka pot coffee is not technically espresso, it tastes great in a cortadito. Instead of combining the coffee grounds and the sugar in the filter, place the sugar in the top chamber of the Moka pot. This way the coffee can brew with sugar instead of burning it.
Moka pots are commonly used in Puerto Rico to brew espresso-like coffee without spending a fortune. If you have never tried one before, I highly recommend it. It is an easy and cheap way to brew super strong, thick, Puerto Rican coffee.

How to make an authentic cortadito

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbsp Puerto Rican Coffee
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 Tbsp sugar

Instructions:

  1. Pack your espresso maker with Puerto Rican espresso and sugar. Brew according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  2. In a saucepan, heat milk until just before boiling. Do not let the milk boil. Remove the milk from heat and transfer it to a serving cup.
  3. Combine ingredients and top with brown sugar whipped cream if desired.

Whether you like it or not, these above are the most popular ways with which Puerto Rican coffee is being enjoyed. That doesn’t mean you need to like them but it shows us all the shades of this beautiful beverage.

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