I have a great memory of my childhood and I don’t recall ever NOT drinking coffee! I went straight from my mother's breast to a bottle for a brief time and then straight to a cup of cafe con leche - espresso coffee or instant coffee mixed with milk and a spoonful or two of sugar. In today's lingo, a latte or a cappuccino. I was two years old!
I remember the delicious morning aroma that filled our second floor apartment in Miami’s Little Havana. I loved getting out of bed and smelling it even though I was only in kindergarten, first grade, well you get the picture. Half asleep, I’d get to the kitchen to eat my breakfast, usually buttered toast and the coffee. By the time I was done with it I was feeling awake, peppy and ready to start my day.
Here's how my mom made it. While warming up milk in a saucepan, she scooped a couple of teaspoons of Nescafe instant coffee into the mug plus at least one teaspoon of sugar. When the milk was hot, she poured it into the cup. Some of the coffee granules floated to the top and I pretended they were chocolate chips.
I didn’t know then that I wasn't drinking the "real" stuff yet. The cafe con leche my mom made with instant Nescafe, sugar and milk was milder than espresso she was making for herself and my dad in her Cuban-style cafetera, or Moka pot.
But it wasn’t long before I was drinking the real stuff too. It made me feel so grown up. I loved the crema, the froth, or as we Cubans called it, the espumita on top. Think about it, a first-grader pumped with sugar and a shot of espresso before school every day. That was me. No wonder I always left the house in a good mood and with a skip in my step!
There’s no real science to making the Nescafe instant coffee of my early childhood. But check out this recipe to learn how to make a real cup of Cuban coffee.