Nespresso to bring Cuban coffee to US soil for first time in 50 years

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Organic trade association Agriculture

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock
It has been half a century since the US embargoed trade with Cuba, and now Nespresso is jumping on the first opportunity to bring the storied coffee beans of this tropical island country to the US.

It will be the first time Nespresso will sell coffee from Cuba in any market ever, a spokesperson told FoodNavigator-USA. The product, called Cafecito de Cuba​, will be available as a limited edition in the fall of 2016, with plans to grow in the long-run.

“We always aim to delight consumers through exclusive, unique coffee experiences, and we anticipate there will be a big demand for our Cuban coffee in the US,”​ the spokesperson said.

But it’s not just the novelty of the country of origin that will entice buyers—according to Nespresso, the Caribbean country’s coffee beans has its own luxurious, distinct flavor. “Cafecito de Cuba is a dark roasted and intense coffee,” ​the spokesperson said.

“It is a pure origin Grand Cru, 100% Cuban Arabica coffee.  The coffee has aromatic wood notes; cedar-like, moist, scented, and fresh. As the cup cools it seems to gain in viscosity and mouth weight with a light caramel finish,” ​he added.

Starting small

Food and beverage industry interest in trade with Cuba has been gaining momentum since the Obama administration updated the list of goods​ that can be imported into the US from independent Cuban entrepreneurs back in April.

The “independent entrepreneurs”​ Nespresso and its business partner TechnoServe will work with are smallholder coffee farmers in Cuba. It won’t be the first time the global giant will source its coffee from smaller farms in developing countries—a press release said that the company has experience with smallholder farmers in Colombia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya.

“Ultimately, our goal is to support farmers in their production of sustainable coffee and contribute to expanded economic opportunities for them in the long-term,”​ the spokesperson said.

Rekindling a relationship

As Congress continues to debate​ whether or not restrictions on trade with Cuba should be loosened up, the agricultural sector is one of the most vocal proponents to lift the sanctions.

The push is definitely felt from the organic sector, which Politico reports​ has importers “salivating over Cuba’s untapped organic market, given the trouble the US has keeping up with its growing demand for organic products.”

At the Organic Trade Association’s Policy Conference​ in Washington DC last month, Cuba had a special place in a speech by US Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack, who recently signed an agreement​ with Cuban Agriculture Minister Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero to foster collaboration between both countries.

“Recently I had the opportunity—and I think a lot of folks with the Organic Trade Association and Industry had the chance to go down to Cuba—and I think there is a tremendous opportunity here for us to use food in the way I believe it should be used as a unifying industry,”​ he said.

“I think there is no question that American agriculture can supply and should supply and hopefully will supply in the near future, a lot of these commodities that the Cuban people need to feed themselves. But they also have the opportunity, given the nature of the land mass in Cuba, given the nature of farming as it is in Cuba, to begin being a major supplier or organic,”​ he added.

Though Politico reported that coffee, a mainstay of Cuban agriculture, is one of the top two organic US imports by value (along with bananas), Nespresso’s spokesperson said that there are no plans at this time that Cafecito de Cuba ​will be sourced from organically grown coffee.

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