“Isn’t a café con leche the same as a latté?” asks my gringo husband – this mind you after listening to countless stories about my grandma’s famous café con leché and tasting it on multiple occasions.
“No, No, No” I say with a Cuban accent. “It’s definitely not the same. How can you say that?!”
Growing up, I would have a café con leché, which simply translates to coffee with milk, first thing in the morning or anytime I walked into my grandma’s house for a visit. Mind you, first thing in the morning went all the way back to when I started school – like pre-K. Yes, Cubans give their small children strong coffee…with lots of evaporated milk and sugar. To this day, I can have coffee any time of the day and night and fall right to sleep. Grandma (abuela) helped build an immunity to the well-known effects of coffee.
Bustelo, the brand I’ve seen in my family’s cupboard for ever, is “strong and powerful” as described by the family who has been producing it since 1865. Mixed with evaporated milk and organic brown sugar (these days), it is so delicious. The main difference (aside from pure taste) between a Starbucks-style latté and a Cuban café con leché is that a latté, you take on the run, while the café con leché means we’re about to sit down and talk, converse, gossip or just enjoy laughing over something silly.
The best of these conversations is always with my abuela. “Fulano” (fulano means so-and-so in Cuban slang) is coming from Cuba, graduating from college, getting a dog, having a baby…whatever the family gossip was at the moment, it would be discussed over a piping hot, sugary sweet, unforgettably scented café con leché. On better days, it was accompanied by toasted Cuban bread and melted real butter.
I haven’t made café con leché for myself in a while, but yesterday, I found a spunky-looking cafetera (Cuban espresso maker) at Marshall’s for $5.00! The Bustelo was already in my pantry, waiting for its partner in crime – la cafetera. I just made some for me and some company – que rico!