HAVANA, March 19th Hola-brand coffee, an essential consumer item that can be bought using a ration card (4 ounces per person per month), will be available for sale — at least through March and April — in a clear polyethylene sleeve instead of its usual screen-printed bag. Delivery delays of its imported packaging have kept the product off store shelves, so officials have settled on this temporary solution.
They made the announcement in order to allay any doubts about the “authenticity” of their coffee, which is mixed with dried peas, something the packaging label does not mention.
The announcement — made to the official press by the director-general of Cuba-Cafe, Daniel Cobas Cheda — was not enough to calm public discontent.
The statement, first published in Tribuna de la Habana and later posted on the official website Cubadebate, has generated numerous comments reflecting consumers’ frustration, especially over the island’s heavy dependence on imports, which now also includes the packaging in which coffee is sold.
“So even plastic has to be imported? Can’t we manage to produce a plastic bag in this country?” asks one reader. “Besides reducing imports, it would confirm the product is authentic.”
“If they want to reduce imports, why are they putting a product that everyone knows is low-quality in a plastic wrapper? These are unnecessary expenses. If it’s all for domestic consumption and is not a high-quality product, then put it in packaging made here,” reads another comment along the same lines.
This issue is one that has also been raised by Cubadebate readers. Even some of those who describe themselves as “revolutionaries” believe it is outrageous that a product of such low quality could even be called coffee
“I consider it insulting that the statement above claims this will clarify any confusion about the product’s authenticity. This product ceased to be authentic “COFFEE” a long time ago.
Now it’s just a powder with an unpleasant odor and an unbearable taste that seems to be something other than what it claims to be: coffee. I think that you should have a little more respect, of which you clearly have none, for hardworking people who have sacrificed and dedicated themselves to the work of the Revolution. Thank you,” writes one reader.
Multiple comments focused on the argument that what is being sold is not really coffee, and has not been for some time. “After reading this news, I realized no one respects anyone anymore. Cuba-Café, or perhaps we should call it Cuba-dried-pea, has no respect for its customers or for itself.
This is a company incapable of guaranteeing something as basic as its brand’s reputation. Of course, this is only for the domestic market. They would never dare export this.”
Hola’s managers acknowledge that for the past two years they have been blending the coffee they sell locally with 50% dried peas. The International Coffee Organization states, however, that any product that contains more than 5% of another ingredient cannot be classified as coffee.
The former general director of Cuba-Café, Antonio Aleman Blanco, explained in an article in the official press the formula, “which is no secret, is 50% Arabica or Robusta coffee beans and 50% dried peas.”
One of those who posted a comment was happy to learn that the product will at least be available again but has not given up hope that one day it will be better: “Good decision.
There are other products out there that we can’t buy because of the packaging. What’s important now is that it gets here. How? It doesn’t matter. Now my question is: Will we one day be able to drink 100% Café Cubano coffee?”
Few could resist the chance, however, to get in an ironic jab. “What a shock! For a moment I thought we’d be getting pure coffee again,” someone wrote. “Right now they give you peas, beans and rice and say, ’Innovate and like it,’” added another.
Once the plastic packaging arrives in the country, says Cobas Cheda, Hola’s coffee-and-pea blend will return in its usual format.