Here in the United States, coffee is often nothing special – just coffee: a watery drink, served out of a big pitcher.
But if one is on the other side of the Atlantic, say, in Italy, and asks for a cup of coffee – without elaborating –surely we would get an espresso so perfect and beautiful that even the best barista in the world would be amazed.
But Hispanics, being so different from other mortals, have many ways of asking for coffee. And we cannot be content to say “coffee, please.” If in Colombia, one would ask for a “tinto”; in Venezuela it would be a “guayoyito”; in Argentina, “una lágrima sin espuma” – literally: a tear without foam; and in Cuba – if Fidel allows – a “cortadito,” that is, coffee “cut” with a small amount of milk. And so on, to infinity.
And perhaps we reveal our origins with those inventions that are impossible to explain and measure: two drops of milk, a pinch of brown sugar, a bit of grated nutmeg and a touch of salt – as it is served in the Versailles in Miami, Florida.
For Hispanics, plain coffee does not identify us; we have to baptize it with our Spanish language. Otherwise, it will not taste good.
Coffee stories heard in Washington, D.C.
On the morning of March 29, three Hispanics complained about the coffee served at the W Hotel in the national capital where the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was holding its Legislative Summit. These were some of the comments:
For Ricardo Gonzalez, the best coffee that he’s ever had was in the middle of the Coyoacán neighborhood in Mexico City, near the corner of Cuauhtémoc and Centenario streets. “It tasted like heaven. I don’t think that anyone in the world can beat that streetside flavor.” He found another coffee, almost as good, also in Mexico, in Veracruz. “They mix it for you in your cup and it is very rich. An ideal accompaniment to sweet bread.”
Manuel Estrada said: “In Colombia we have the tinto, a morning coffee, which is never reheated.” He said it is “served in a very small cup, and that will do it for you all day.”
Laura Maldonado, a Cuban living in Virginia, said the Cuban cortadito “is a part of my island, spread over the world.” According to Maldonado, that variant of coffee “is more than an espresso with milk, much more. It’s like made in heaven.”
The three left their disposable paper cups on the marble counter and went in search of a Starbucks.
Exploring that adventure will have to wait for another day, or perhaps another coffee.
Photos by Juan Miret