Las Olas Cafe on Sixth Street and Euclid Avenue in Miami Beach

Sure, chain coffee houses from Seattle dot most high-traffic corners in Miami, but our true caffeine love affair is with Cuban coffee, usually served up from outdoor café windows, or ventanitas. Miami is the only town in the States where, for a fraction of the cost of a cup of designer joe, you can snag espresso-ground deliciousness in a range of strengths.

The most gentle is the cafe con leche, more or less analogous to a latte. The next step up is the cortadito, a mini cup containing about half espresso, half milk. Then, for the caffeine-impervious, there’s the colada, a multiple-serving cup of straight coffee, no chaser, best shared and consumed a thimbleful at a time.

The secret? Start with a deep espresso, take a portion and stir up a thick coffee/sugar paste, then blend in the rest of the coffee (ask for just a “little” sugar, and this’ll probably get you one teaspoon instead of three). From there, add whatever portion of steamed milk you desire.

“There’s a perception that [Cuban coffee] has a lot more caffeine than a regular coffee,” says chef Douglas Rodriguez, proprietor of the upscale South Beach Cuban restaurant De Rodriguez Cuba on Ocean. “But technically it isn’t more concentrated; what you’re getting is that sugar rush.” At De Rodriguez Cuba, he prefers beans from a local distributor, Kaña Cuban Coffee Roasters, and creates his foam with the help of a fancy high-powered espresso machine.

But still, that’s not too far off from the humble Styrofoam Cafe Bustelo Supremo servings proffered from neighborhood joints like Las Olas Cafe, a tiny authentic eatery on Euclid Avenue and Sixth Street on South Beach. There, customers show up early and seemingly never leave the canopied sidewalk tables, staying wired on a steady drip courtesy of brewer Elsie Hernandez.

Like what you're reading? Get it delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up now for our newsletters >>