Cafe Bustelo 2020 Full Review
Latin American coffee culture is huge. Going back centuries, with lots of regional differences given also by the different types of coffee grown locally. South and Central America have a central spot in the history and culture related to drinking coffee.
Strong, aromatic, and rich espressos dominate, along with delicious cafe con leche, cortados, tinto, café de olla, and cafezinho. Plenty of names for plenty of different ways to enjoy the most popular caffeinated beverage in the world.
It is no wonder then that this long tradition and rich culture were transplanted outside the Latin American proper boundaries. Café Bustelo did it already in 1928 thanks to the efforts of the founder of the company, Gregorio Bustelo. As a Spanish man, he visited many Latin American cities and fell in love with the espresso-style coffee drinks in them, especially in Havana.
Café Bustelo was opened in East Harlem, New York, as a way to bring this culture to the masses. Prices were affordable, in order to gather the local Latino community. Back at the time they hadn’t had a way to enjoy the coffee they loved at home in a professional setting.
Fast forward to today, Café Bustelo sells coffee beans, instant coffee and K-cup packaged coffee throughout the USA. It has a presence anywhere there’s a Latin coffee community. The iconic Angelina, the face of the wife of Gregorio Bustelo, on the package of all their coffee is immediately recognizable. With the vivid yellow highlighting the rich and vibrant coffee inside.
Cafe Bustelo Products
But how does Café Bustelo taste? And, is it right for you? Let’s find out.
Ground: “El Original”
The original indeed, as it still is made like the first coffee brewed in the old coffee shop in East Harlem. It is a faithful reproduction of what Cubans like their coffee like dark, pure, bold, and very flavorful. It comes in grounds inside a can, for best preserving the freshness. For smooth and strong espressos lovers.
Café Bustelo’s Supreme
The “upgraded” line of Café Bustelo. The Supreme comes in both ground and whole beans forms. This makes it excellent for those who want to also grind themselves and have total control over the brewing process.
It is 100% Arabica, while the original is not. Yet it is very similar in taste, featuring the classic smooth and strong combination that is a trademark of Café Bustelo in general.
You can’t go wrong with this typical Latin-inspired coffee. A decaf version is also available.
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Instant: “Sabor Latino al Instante”
Besides their classic ground and whole bean blends, Café Bustelo is rightfully famous for its instant coffee. The “Sabor Latino al Instante” comes in single-serve packets, small containers, and larger freeze-dried canisters.
It comes in both normal and decaf versions, other than a few flavored ones: café con dulce de leche, café con chocolate, café con leche. The names are self-explanatory, giving a twist to the classic Café Bustelo’s coffee taste.
A single origin from Mexico was recently added, providing a Mexican-inspired instant coffee alternative.
Single Serve Cups: “Listo Para Tu Taza”
The single-serve offering from Café Bustelo is named “ready for your cup”. And it couldn’t be a more appropriate name. Coming in the K-cup format for Keurig machines, “listo para tu taza” branches out in 6 different flavors.
Brazil and Colombian single origins, the same flavors as for the instant coffee line (café con dulce de leche, café con leche, and café con chocolate), plus the classic Café Bustelo blend. The K-cups format makes it extremely easy to brew the Latin American coffee in a few seconds at home.
How To Brew
The rich culture of Latin America coffee has to be reproduced not only with the proper coffee, as Café Bustelo provides, but also with an adequate brewing method. Clearly, a good espresso machine will be able to brew a wonderful espresso with the ground coffee of the original or Supreme line. But we would also suggest trying Café Bustelo in a Moka pot.
Making it as strong as you can by reducing the amount of water in it to have a higher coffee to water ratio. Then add about 1 tablespoon of sugar for each serving recreating both the bitterness and sweetness that are so appreciated throughout Latin America.
You can mix the strong coffee in small doses with the sugar at the bottom of your espresso cups and then pour it over the rest.
This way you will first make a concentrate, syrupy mixture of very strong coffee with lots of sugar, and then “dilute” it with the unsweetened coffee.
Alternatively, a classic café con leche can be made with either a specifically flavored Café Bustelo coffee or an unflavored one. The same as before, either with an espresso machine or a Moka pot. Add a splash of milk on top of it, to soften the harshest aspects of the coffee.
Now that you have an idea of what Café Bustelo offers and how to brew it, how does it taste? Where does Café Bustelo stand in terms of strength, body, and aromatic profile?
We are going to talk about the Supreme line, as it is arguably the best one offered by Café Bustelo. Its taste doesn’t differ too much from the “El Original” line, so you can opt to buy this one instead and save some money.
The aromatic profile of the Supreme line is what you would expect from a classic Latin American coffee geared towards this coffee culture. It’s bold, strong, quite bitter, with a distinctive raisin-like fruit element that underlines the bitterness. For some, it is an acquired taste while Latin American palates will find it deliciously remindful of their origins. It can be very strong, not as in caffeine content but as in actual taste, for unaccustomed audiences. Certainly, it is worth a try to understand what it is like.
Strength indeed is one of the strong points of Café Bustelo. Unlike the Supreme line, which is 100% Arabica, the others have their fair share of Robusta coffee in it. This gives the coffee more punch, body, and bold flavors.
It loses a few points in the number of flavors that can be recognized in favor of more strength. If you want a more balanced cup, the Supreme line is worth spending a little more for. Otherwise, those looking for a strong cup of coffee will find a coffee for them in Café Bustelo’s.
At the same time, as a consequence of the aim of Café Bustelo for the Latin community’s tastes and the presence of Robusta beans, the body is quite heavy. Expect a dense, filling cup of coffee. You can lighten up the body by brewing with a paper filter, like in a Chemex or drip machine. That will make it more similar to coffee you may be used to drinking. But if you like heavy-bodied coffee, Café Bustelo will deliver it.
In the end, Café Bustelo is not for you if you like lighter coffee, and complex flavors. Or love to drink a coffee that doesn’t overpower you nor needs to be diluted with milk or lots of sugar to be balanced.
Otherwise, perhaps you like Cuban-style coffee? Do you like to drink coffee black and strong? Are you looking for a coffee that will provide the strength and body that you’d expect in a strong cup without having to splurge?
Then Café Bustelo might be right for you.