Cuba cuts down on its coffee fix

A Cuban worker picks coffee beans at a plantation on the Sierra Maestra Mountains, in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba, on July 26, 2010.

Jeremy Hobson: Well in Cuba the coffee is about to get a little hard to swallow. The island is planning to start adding ground roasted peas to its coffee mix as part of President Raul Castro's cost cutting measures.

The BBC's Michael Voss reports from Havana.


Michael Voss: Cuba was once one of the world's leading coffee exporters. But last year's harvest on the state-owned farms was the lowest ever recorded.

Today, most of the coffee drunk here is imported. The bitter tasting pea mix was first introduced in the 1980s, and older Cubans like Jose Luis Alejo, have fond memories of the blend.

Jose Luis Alejo: I remember it perfectly and it was acceptable. In fact, when a Cuban was offered pure coffee, many people didn't like it; we thought it tasted bad. The problem comes where you run out of peas and start using corn. It's happened before.

The mixed coffee only applies to the subsidized supplies, which everyone receives with their monthly ration card. Until now, the whole family had a coffee ration, but as another cost-cutting measure, children under six will no longer be entitled to their daily fix.

In Havana, I'm the BBC's Michael Voss for Marketplace.

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