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Coffee Was a Staple of Ros-Lehtinen’s Youth

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen often tells her staffers that when it comes to making a good cup of Cuban coffee, “you can’t have too much sugar.”

For the Congresswoman who has represented Miami (home to Little Havana) and the Florida Keys since 1989, coffee is personal — the glue that connects her district’s social fabric.

“Growing up, Cuban coffee was a staple in my household. I learned to make Cuban coffee at home, like most Cuban-Americans,” she said. “Cuban coffee is sold everywhere in South Florida. You can enter most commercial places and they will sell you a shot of great Cuban coffee.”

Inside a kitchenette in Rayburn Room 2206, Ros-Lehtinen and her staff have to replace a standard aluminum espresso coffee maker every few months because they use it so frequently. The coffee maker is typically about nine inches high. Every morning they make cups of Cuban coffee using the Café Bustelo brand, available at many supermarkets.

It takes less than 10 minutes for Ros-Lehtinen to prepare the coffee. The first step is to fill the bottom of the coffee maker with water and then add Café Bustelo to the strainer. After that, fill the strainer to the top and close the coffee maker tightly. Ros-Lehtinen then puts the coffee maker on the stove on medium-high heat for several minutes.

She follows that by placing a healthy amount of sugar in a separate cup. When the coffee is done percolating, the chairwoman pours a few drops of coffee into the sugar. She then stirs aggressively.

“So now we’re going to wait for a little bit to percolate. Then we put it in there. And then we’re going to chee, chee, chee, chee [stir]. That’s what makes the ‘espuma’ or the foam,” she explained.

Thicker foam makes for better coffee. That’s the mystique. Well, that and the sugar.

As she is often telling her staff: “You can’t have too much sugar.”

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