Cuba’s coffee culture dates back to colonial times, when the coffee industry was introduced to the country by Spanish and French settlers over 300 years ago. Coffee culture in Cuba therefore has profound roots, embodied in very peculiar forms of preparation and distinctive flavors, in which Cubans take enormous pride. Although any self-respecting bar or restaurant in Havana will most likely serve good Cuban coffee, here’s our pick of the best.
As stated on its website, Cafe Arcangel was founded by a couple of bed & breakfast owners with the desire to bring a “distinctively new coffee bar” to Havana, a goal that they have achieved and surpassed, becoming the most popular coffeehouse in the city. The eclectic style of the place combines European, American and Cuban elements to create a cozy atmosphere, complemented by consistently good service and cheap prices. An ideal spot for a big breakfast in preparation for exploring the city, and also great for lunch and drinks.
Café El Escorial
Café El Escorial is a good choice if all you want is a place to enjoy a good Cuban coffee and a nice view. Located on the corner of Old Square – one of the main centers in Old Havana – this café has tables in the porch and is nicely equipped with umbrellas for the hot Cuban weather. However, bear in mind that this is a state-run business, which in Cuba is synonymous with slow and low quality service, so be ready to hear that some of the items in the menu are not available (on a good day, the menu will include Cuban coffee, coffee frappé, coffee liquor and coffee daiquiri).
Café de los Artistas
Café de los Artistas is one of many new businesses in Old Havana seeking to stand out in the competition against more established bars that appeal to foreign tourists. Although the name could lead you to think that this simply a coffee shop, the menu at Café de los Artistas is versatile enough to consider it a restaurant or a tapas bar. Installed in an old colonial house with high ceilings, the bar has an outdoor section on the narrow cobblestone street, situated in the artsy Barbers’ Alley.
Located in Miramar, Café Fortuna has a long list of beverage options ranging from a simple Cuban espressos to all kinds of combinations of coffee, milk, cocoa, honey, vodka, whiskey and Havana Club rum. The interior design of the café features typewriters, old radio sets and cameras, giving the place a touch of nostalgia for a not-too-distant analog past. The house special – also named Café Fortuna – is a big coffee with condensed milk, whiskey and basil.
Café Fortuna Joe
The similarity of the name of this café and Café Fortuna tends to be a little confusing, especially when both establishments have similar menus and are even located quite close to one another. For reference, Fortuna Joe is the one on 1st street, closer to the ocean. Its menu includes more than 30 types of coffee to choose from, in delicious combinations of ice cream, rum, and numerous flavors that can be enjoyed with homemade snacks.
Founded by an American citizen, Cuba Libro is a great place to enjoy an iced coffee after seeing the sights in Vedado near the Colon Cemetery. This literary cafe/bookshop is one of the few places in Havana where it’s possible to find good books in English. Hammocks in a seating area in the front contribute to create a very informal atmosphere where you can leaf through the pages of a borrowed book, and meet interesting people with a shared interested in literature.
Cafe Galeria Mamaine
Enjoy a cold coffee with whipped cream at one of busiest sections of Vedado, in Havana. This peculiar bar restaurant is a lovely combination of rustic furniture and artworks by local painters and artists, with large scatter cushions on the floor or at a small outdoor area on the side. Coffee options are not as varied as some places, but they cover the most common preparations, including the famed super-concentrated Cuban espresso. Mamaine is within walking distance of the Havana Libre Hotel, the National Hotel, and the U.S. Embassy.
Café del Angel Jacqueline Fumero
Like many similar establishments in Old Havana, Café del Angel Jacqueline Fumero is a combination of restaurant, bar and café that’s perfect for a relaxing drink or an invigorating Cuban coffee after touring the area near the Museum of the Revolution. Founded by fashion designer Jacqueline Fumero, the café is right next to the Angel Church, another important point of interest that gives the place some of a colonial atmosphere.
Named after Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, Cafe Neruda’s main strength is the wonderful view of the Malecon seaside that can be enjoyed from this ample semi-outdoor cafe bar in Centro Habana. As a state-run establishment, it shares the common problems of slow service and not especially great food compared to emerging private businesses, but it’s a good place to rest and recharge after a long walk down the Malecon.
A relatively new place, El Dandy is a hip tiny bar/restaurant on the corner of Plaza del Cristo, where in addition to great food and drinks, you’ll be able to enjoy excellent Cuban coffee. With its rustic old style and its lively atmosphere, El Dandy is rivaling the popularity of El Chanchullero – an older establishment just a couple of buildings away – and becoming one of the favorite spots for tourists to enjoy a good breakfast or simply spend the afternoon enjoying cold drinks.
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