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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Beer Show! Key West Beer Tales - The Sum of all Beers



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Key West Beer Tales - The Sum Of All Beers

We've been doing both a beer show podcast and a music show podcast since last summer and we've had a blast doing them! The beer show has been available on the Spreaker site for a while. These are shows that have already aired. We're also picking up new stations!

The beer show is very unique and frankly, I see it as far superior to anything else out there as far as a beer podcast goes.

In most cases when a consumer is investigating a beer of any sort, they'll look on line naturally. There are a good deal of web sites that cover and critique beer. Rate Beer, Beer Advocate, Yelp, Untapped, Beer-Universe, Beer Of The Month Club, and there are most likely others that I don't know about. Of course, this shows what a healthy state of interest beer is enjoying today!

Ours is different however. To start with, it's recorded in a bar, the Cork and Stogie in Key West! Fitting for a show of our nature! Secondly, we're authentic. The place we get our information on the beers is from the brewery itself. Now and then a brewery has a website that has little or no information on a beer. When this would happen I looked at the aforementioned  sites to see if they had any information on the beer in question. Many times in doing this I found erroneous information. With one particular beer I found alcohol content (ABV - alcohol by volume) to be 3.7 on one site, 4.2 on another, and 5.0 on another.

Obviously, none of these could be trusted, because it appeared that they were pulling numbers out of a hat. So, with us, if it's not from the brewery, we don't state it without a disclaimer that it's only an educated guess. We don't arbitrarily stick a number that we pulled out of the air and list it as verbatim. Others seem to do this regretfully. With us, it comes from the brewery or we categorically state that we are guessing and also give a range that we're guessing.

Draft beer can vary. If the brewery lists a beer as 5.0 on line, a keg may arrive which has a sticker on it showing 5.2. It will seldom be more than .2 over/under, and we'll state that particular keg's brewery listing. Again, it's the rating from the brewery that we go by. If not, we don't without a full blown disclaimer. It's a matter of integrity.

Our panel is quite unique and covers a wide range, giving the listener a good foundation to work from. The standard panel we use is five, although sometimes one or more may have other commitments and can't make the show. On a few occasions we've also had a small live audience.

However, here's our roster and how we all fit in. I'll start with myself and name the crew in the order that we sit at the show.

Key West Chris: I'm the host of the show and the old school beer guy. I started drinking quality beer when I was eighteen (legal age back then) and became intrigued with it from the beginning. I bought the book The World Guide To Beer by English author and patron saint of  beer, Michael Jackson, just after it was was first released and proceeded to buy over forty books on beer thereafter. The beer in my refrigerator today, is never the same beer that is there tomorrow, nor has it been my whole adult life.There is no beer that is my favorite, or favorite style. Every beer has it's place.

Dani Hoy: Dani is new (but getting more and more a veteran!) to quality beer and therefore a vital part of the show. She'll often ask questions that I, or some of the other crew, would never cross our minds. Everyone is new to beer at one point or another. We all were. Dani fits a vital role in our show because of this. So, it's very important to address that side of things and cultivate those with a new interest in cerevisia or cervisia, the Latin names for beer! Dani is the gateway for that side of the show! From my perspective that is equally tied for being the most important part of the show.

Cultivating new lovers of beer is vital for growth and interest and while it may share a front seat with other vital responsibilities, nothing goes in front of it. What other beer show features a novice's questions as part of the panel? I think we're unique here as well. Dani is also the editor of the show, which for each 47 minute podcast, takes her four to six hours to complete. YEY Dani! Additionally, Dani is a marvelous chef in the kitchen, so she has a very educated pallet which is now expanding to quality beers!

Cowboy Mark Straiton: Mark is a fascinating individual who, from his native Connecticut, traveled the world and happened to be a major beer enthusiastic while doing so! He's also right on the money as to exactly what is trending in the beer world, at this exact minute, as well as when it changes five minutes from now. While I'm the old school beer guy, Mark is the new school beer guy. His tales of beer from his around the world travels is always great fn from street meat in Austria, to fearing for his life in Moscow! He's extremely well versed and educated on beer and funny enough, his and my pallets are quite similar in many circumstances. Mark is also a very well versed bartender and an accomplished chef, who's worked in restaurants both in Key West and his old stomping grounds, Brooklyn, N.Y..

Diamond Dave: Dave is our lighthearted member who keeps us laughing. After all, laughing is essential when drinking beer! Hell, if we were too serious the show would be boring! We all have great senses of humor and Dave is often the catalyst who gets us laughing, like throwing gas on the fire, when we already are! Are there any shows that offer this? I don't think so! Dave is quite knowledgeable on beer as well and has been a major IPA fan for over fifteen years. Dave is our "Go To IPA Guy"!

Dave Senior: Dave Senior is the owner of The Cork and Stogie, here in Key West where we record the shows. One of the greatest attributes here is having a bar owner on the panel! Dave sees things from a totally different angle than anyone else. Dave sees what people are buying on a day to day basis and orders his beer accordingly. Tell me another show that has that?Dave is also an expert on both cigars and wine, which again brings things to the table not found elsewhere.

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Key West Beer Tales reviews beers, we don't rate them. Rating beer is B/S. I recall doing a show where we featured Pilsner Urquell. Now, Pilsner Urquell has always been regarded as one of the finest beers in the world. One of the on line beer websites had it rated by their subscribers, in the seventies out of one hundred. Seriously? What many highly respected beer experts over the last century and 3/4, the highest in their field, have called the finest pilsner available, these people are rating in the seventies? I'd love to see the woodwork they're crawling out of! Probably 1313 Mockingbird Lane! Another rating had an opinion of Stella Artois as "tasting like Budweiser".  did that individual burn their tongue with a blow torch or something? What kind of people do they have rating anyway?

Those are but two examples that lead me to believe that there was not only a call for our show, but also a need for it as well.

So, we comment on the beer and note what flavor impressions each one of us pick up. Everyone in our group has a very educated pallet. Some may not be routed in beer. Dani's stems from cooking. Dave Senior's comes from wine and cigars. Interestingly enough, when anyone expresses a taste, everyone else picks up on it. I can't say how many times one of our panel says they taste something I did not detect. From that point on, I notice it, however had they not brought it up, I may never have noticed it on my own. The same can be true for our listeners!

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We often do pairings. Who better than to ask on pairings then peope who are great in the culinary arts as well as being beer lovers? Cowboy Mark has been a professional chef! Dani is great in the kitchen and used to prepare daily meals and dinner for a bourgeoisie couple in a stately mansion on the Patomac. I'm not too bad in the kitchen myself, or better yet, on the grill. So in pairings we offer a very good basis to go by.

Here's one thing you don't see in pairings that we do somewhat often actually. No one is sticking a gun to our heads and saying "Pair this with something!". Quite often is the case that one of our panel will just flat out say "I'm not going to pair this with anything". So often I see pairings being done like a knee jerk and a pairing is a must. Well, you know what?  No it isn't. Some beers just stand on their own. For instance, last night we reviewed Old Ruffian Barley Wine out of the Great Divide Brewery out of Denver, Co. Fantastic beer!!! Pairing? Me? No thanks. I think that beer is best drunk as an aperitif, after a meal, all by itself. In other words, there's no B/S from any of us. ( on the no B/S stand, Cowboy Mark recently described a beer as tasting like a pine cone that had been up a skunk's ass. Now while I'm not sure how he knows what that tastes like, that's certainly a no B/S approach! HA HA HA!)

In addition, as we're based at the Cork and Stogie in Key West (1218 Duval St) we also do cigar pairings. Dave Senior is an expert, as are Diamond Dave and Cowboy Mark as well. Who else offers cigar pairings?

Key West is becoming a popular destination for beer enthusiasts. In addition to The Cork and Stogie there are many bars that offer fine beers. We've had beer entrepreneur Chris Schults, owner of The Porch, 2 Cents, and the soon to be opened Waterfront Brewery, on as a guest and plan on having him on again! Great guy with a vision! Also in the cards is a visit to Bone Island Brewing, a new brewery here in Key West.

We've also had the CEO of Stiegl Brewery from Salzberg, Austria, Robert Schraml interviewed right in the Cork and Stogie on our show! He flew 4000 miles in part to be on our show in Key West. This was planned months in advance. What other show has interviews with CEO's of large breweries, from Europe no less, on their shows?

Future plans for the show include little field trips to different places in, not only Key West, but through out the Florida Keys!

Some video is also in store! We hope to have clips here and there, now and then which we'll have on our YouTube site. We have to learn how to walk before we can run, but it's in the cards!

This is a beer show. In being a beer show, it's different than many other shows in one particular regard. Yes, you'll get a very good variety of opinions and in puts. Yes, you'll pick up all sorts of fascinating facts about beer that you never knew. Yes, our stats come from the brewery itself, we don't invent them on the fly, Yes, our panel is quite diverse which without doubt is our strongest point featuring traditional opinions, the new and trending opinions, new quality beer drinker 's questions and opinions, the pub owner's viewpoint on what people are buying this month, this week, and today. however we're different in one other very important aspect and this is a vital aspect  which separates beer drinking from so many other subjects:

We know how to laugh!

 We're beer lovers, we're not beer snobs.

Indeed we know how to laugh! We know how to have fun! We don't hold ourselves above anyone and we love to educate those who want to know more and everyone has a blast doing it!  The antithesis of any type of snob.

So come join us! Be sure to grab a beer before you tune in and have your laughing pants on and pad and pencil ready!

We do out show from our benevolent sponsor's bar:

The Cork and Stogie
1218 Duval St.
Key West, Fl. 33040

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To hear any of our past shows check out our Spreaker account!
It works the same as Youtube or Soundcloud! Here's one show:

And here's the library link to all past shows:

For all of our latest, up to the minute shows airing on radio stations on line,  here's the weekly schedules!

KW Beer Show Schedule (all times are EST)

KWOM - 10am and 10pm Daily

Trop Rock Radio - 6pm Friday

Radio A1A - 10am Tuesday

The Shore - noon on Saturday

Tiki Beach Shop - 2pm Monday, Wednesday & Friday

Permanent Vacation Radio - 10pm Monday & 8pm Friday 6pm Saturday

Beach Life Radio   Monday - Friday 7PM

Palm Tree Radio -

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Thank you!!!

To hear and download my music

(also available on iTunes, and CD Universe! Search "Key West Chris")


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Winter Relief!

                                                         Winter Relief!!!!

It's been a very difficult winter this year for most of the United States. Fortunately, here in Key West it's been fantastic, so we've been blessed!

Today, it's sunny and 82 (28C) degrees. I felt perhaps a bit of music from the Keys, as well as pictures, might go well!

Hope you enjoy!

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I hope that helps a bit! All the Best From Key West and the Florida Keys!

To obtain my music:

My CD is available on iTunes, CD Baby, CD Universe, Rhapsody, and Beachfront Radio.
Search: Key West Chris

Thank you everyone!!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Recording In Key West With Homemade Wine

                              Recording In Key West With Homemade Wine

A little while back I mentioned that I was soon to embark on a new album. Well, there were some delays, but on February 12, 2015 I went into the studio and we got the ball rolling! This part of the album, is a bit of an island from what will be the rest of it.

This section actually is rooted almost two years ago when my friends with Homemade Wine out of Knoxville, Tn. were in town and we had a jam up in the band room at Margaritaville where they were playing.

At my suggestion, we jammed on Marshall Tucker’s song “This Ol’Cowboy”, as we were both major Marshall Tucker fans. Of course they were familiar with the song, but up to that point, had not played it before.

We had a blast playing it and percussionist, Tod Sheley, video taped it. It’s gotten a lot of attention on their YouTube channel. It was a great evening, without a doubt.

After this, we decided we’d love to write a song together. I started it, but whenever they were in town, regretfully there wasn’t time to get together and work on a song.Consequently, I wrote the rest of the song.

It was written musically by design to have a close relation to This Ol’ Cowboy, though at the same time, it’s very different. The song is entitled “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”. Kind of semi-philosophical of how I lead my life. Learn from the past, live in the moment, set goals for the future, based on sailing on a sailboat motif/foundation.

Well, here we are and even though we never got to write the song together, we did record it right here in Key West.

The original plan was to record it with Dan Simpson, however Dan didn’t have the facility to do it live, which was the plan. A block away from me is Lance Taylor’s Key West Studio, so that was made the official destination. We could set the whole band up there and do live takes.

It’s an amazing studio, built into a small Conch House, not far from the Southernmost Point. It’s also Lance’s home, however it’s far more accurate to say that Lance lives in the studio, rather than the studio is in Lance’s home.

As you walk into the house via the front door, you are walking into the drum room, complete with sound deadening, plus,  a set of drums that the late, great Richard Crooks donated to the cause, so that they could be put to use by all who need a set of quality drums to record with. A great philanthropic gesture indeed, by the Maestro, prior to his earthly departure.

From there you enter the control room, where all of the computers are. Mission control, so to speak. The bass was set up here, which gave great proximity to both the drums on one side and the rest of us on the other. On that other side is what would be the dining room, however this is where the rest of the band sets up. For us this day it was two electric guitars, an acoustic guitar, and added percussion.

Before all of this, we met up in the band room at Margaritaville, where the band was playing,  the day before. We actually were doing two songs, the other being another song of mine “Ride to the End of the Line Anyway”. Both songs needed to be defined structurally and the guys need to be versed with what was going on and when.

The guys were superb! What more could you ask for really? They not only gave their undivided attention, but also helped immensely in the arrangements. I had done the arrangements, however they refined and defined them. Ryan Sheley has a very keen sense of what works. Often as a writer/arranger one cannot see the forest for the trees as you become so embedded in it all.  Ryan would say “lets cut that bar before the chorus and just go right into it.” He was 100% correct. Thanks Ryan!

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(Ryan Sheley going over songs in the band room)

Rick Reese was fantastic at defining what went where and what chords were used. Having a Berkley College of Music graduate on hand was the proverbial silver bullet. The rest of the band was fantastic as well, all just falling into the arrangements as we went along.

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(Rick Reese in the band room)

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(Andy Westcott and Brad Williams at rehearsal)

Additionally, after that was done and I left, they continued to work on them later that night. These guys were dedicated professionals. Their efforts are greatly appreciated!

The next day we hit the studio. As always, there were a few glitches to overcome, but that’s expected and nothing was extreme.

The two songs I chose to do with them were both Southern Rock based songs. “Ride To The End of the Line Anyway” was on the Allman Brothers side of the tracks, while “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” was from the Marshall Tucker Band side of town, influence wise. Doing two songs based on Southern Rock, who better that have Homemade Wine backing me?

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(Andy Walcott  of Homemade Wine in the studio, Key West, Fl. C.R. USA)

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(Rick Reese of Homemade Wine in the studio, Key West, Fl. C.R. USA)

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(Bradley Williams of Homemade Wine in the studio, Key West, Fl. C.R. USA)

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(Tod Sheley)

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(Ryan Sheley of Homemade Wine in the studio, Key West, Fl. C.R. USA)

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(Playing acoustic in this picture)

To show progress as it goes, here’s some snippets of the songs. A lot must be added still, but for those not in the business, it might be interesting to see how a song progresses.

Here’s a snippet of “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”

And “Ride To the End Of The Line Anyway”

Some folks only know me from my album “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)”. On that album I tried to bring in a bunch of influences I’ve had over my life in music. Consequently, every song was in a different root genre. Afro/Cuban, Jazz, Brazilian, Bahamian, Country… the list goes on.

The album got fantastic accolades from all over the radio and recording business. The late Jeff Allen said “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (Things Could Be Worse) covers so many different genres, it’s another great addition to the ever expanding sounds of Trop Rock by adding so many different new flavors to it.” Jeff Allen, Beachfront Radio

Also, I received an e-mail from none other than Shelly Liebowitz from Los Angeles, producer of Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Dr. John… saying that he loved the album! It really doesn’t come any stronger than that. That’s a seriously heavy endorsement.

Fact is however, that although so many people within the industry had such good things to say about the album and played the heck out of it (and still do! Thanks everyone!), it hasn’t sold as much as I hoped for.

It was funny because as we were in the studio last night, Dani Hoy said to me with a smirk while listening back to Ride To The End Of The Line Anyway, “That’s not Trop Rock” to which I replied “No, it isn’t”. We both laughed. I then replied “It is Conch Rock however!”

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As sales within the Trop Rock community hasn’t been supportive enough, I need other options to augment sales from other angles, in addition to Trop.

Everything is my passion that I’m doing, that’s the most important thing for me, in addition to carving new trails to go down. The one thing I insist on is not sounding like anyone else…. even myself sometimes. Not necessarily the creed of a pop artist, but I’m a songwriter and a progressive artist anyway.

What will it sound like?  Key West and the Florida Keys, naturally!

You can take that to the bank.

More to come as it proceeds!

Thank you again!
To obtain my music:

My CD is available on iTunes, CD Baby, CD Universe, Rhapsody, and Beachfront Radio.
Search: Key West Chris

Thank you everyone!!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Key West - Cuba, The Potential part 1

Key West - Cuba - The Potential part 1

(listen to the Afro Cuban All Stars while you read the blog!)

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On December 17th, 2014, President Obama announced that the United States and Cuba would be restoring diplomatic relations. On January 19th 2015, the U.S. announced that they will be holding talks with Cuba ending travel curbs for U.S. diplomats. As it stands at the moment, both Cuban diplomats in the U.S. and American diplomats in Cuba are restricted in where they can travel. What this is however is a first step in the right direction.

The interesting thing here is, as far as U.S. politicians go, it’s a non-party issue. Some Republicans are for normalization of relations, while some are not. Likewise with the Democrats.

As far as citizens go, Gallup polls in December showed American citizens favored restoring diplomatic relations by 60%. Other polls went as high as 63%.

Just going by what I’ve seen on Facebook was remarkable. Bear in mind that I don’t take political sides on issues in public forums, such as Facebook, for the most part. In addition, I side with both parties on different issues. Because of this, my friends on Facebook are pretty evenly divided 50/50 as far as being Republicans and Democrats.

While the Gallup polls showed 60%, what I found from my Facebook friends posts, as well as reaction to my post on the announcement, was well over 90% in favor. It was to the point that one had to actually search out those against it. Those in favor came from both political parties.

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As I said earlier, the meeting in January was to improve diplomatic travel. They will also be establishing American credit card use in Cuba, which currently is not allowed and consequently, not in place. In addition, the talks in January were including agricultural subjects. In addition, the U.S. Embassy in Havana will re-open.

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On February 9th, 2015, the American company Netflix announced that they will be servicing Cuba. Expect to see more and more companies starting to do likewise as time goes on.

What will come of all of this should be normalization for travel for everyone. I say should, because Congress will have to approve ending the fifty something year old embargo first. Politicians often put their personal agenda ahead of that of their voters, so there’s the possibility it could be rejected.

It’s clear what the people of the United States want however. Hello, Washington D.C.! Please be sure you are listening! Right now, I can fly to Beijing, Communist China, invest millions of dollars in investments, even live there, if I choose. However, at this moment I can't go to Cuba and spend a dime. Congress, please take note. The majority of your constituents are NOT in favor of this. Make your decisions accordingly. 

While there are many hoops of fire to clear, the end result should be for Americans being able to travel freely to Cuba.

Assuming Congress does what the American people are in favor of, lets jump ahead a bit to the point that, say I, a U.S. citizen, can get on a plane and fly to Cuba on a whim.

That’s how it used to be! I recall when I first moved to Miami well over thirty years ago (I’ve been in Key West for almost seven), I recall hearing stories from all sorts of people. They would tell me how they would head to Havana for a weekend, prior to the restrictions being put into place. It seemed that clubs and bars were the normal attractions at the time. Of course they were talking about the 1950’s, and of course, things have changed there since then. However, albeit a bit behind the other communist countries in Europe, Cubans are discovering that making money isn’t such an evil thing after all.

The bottom line here is: How will opening up Cuba effect Key West?

It takes some thought and for myself, it’s such a stimulating thought that when I think about it, ideas flow like cocktails out of a shaker. More often than not, as one idea springs up, three more replace it, in the refining process. So where do we start? The question can be overwhelming. There is so much to talk about and options are literally endless. Additionally, the thought of all of the legal snaggles, obstacles, and headaches that have been created in the political porcupine over the last fifty four years, is mind boggling. For what I’m doing here, that would only be a quagmire for creativity, so I’m going to omit those thoughts for the time being. Repeating the aforementioned question, where do we begin?

There’s only one place to begin logically and that’s at the beginning.

The start of this is imperative to begin now, not run around like headless chickens once the embargo and travel restrictions are lifted. This way, when they are lifted, Key West is hopping into the drivers seat in the fast lane, while everywhere else is scrambling.

 Lets face it, Key West is the closest point in the U.S. to Cuba. From the Southernmost Point at the end of Whitehead Street states that it is 90 miles to Cuba. Key West is closer to Cuba than the closest Walmart. It’s also closer to Cuba than it is to Miami, both by a good deal at that. Both anchor points of local tour guides, here in Key West. So, from a geographical point, Key West is an ideal location for a Cuban connection of any sort. Additionally, the Cuban population here is not the radical Cuban population that one finds in Miami. Key West has always been more open to friendly relations with Cuba.

The Key West International Airport currently isn’t hosting any regular international flights. However, it is a registered international airport. Additionally, in 2011 Key West was authorized by the U.S. government to send and receive flights from Cuba. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Cuba also has to authorize the flights and if I’m not mistaken, this has been in progress for several years. Hopefully, now with the resumption of diplomatic ties, this will be expedited.

The Key West airport director, Peter Horton, the mayor, Craig Cates, and the city commissioners must all be commended on getting Key West International Airport authorized as an airport for service to Cuba. The foresight they had by getting it completed as far back as 2011, gives a lot of confidence in the overall Key West’s overall outlook for Cuba. Lets call ace’s, aces. They had the foresight in getting it done well before any of the current developments announced in December 2014. That’s beyond a good move in anybody’s book.

Strictly thinking on my own behalf, the next move would be giving an attachment between Key West and Cuba. My preference would be:

“Key West - The Gateway To Cuba”

To begin with, this is an accurate statement once flights can be re-established. Key West’s first name was Cayo Hueso. The nickname for Key West in Cuba was “Habana Norte” (Havana north). Cultural ties with Cuba run deep and well established. The cigar industry was huge here in the 1800’s. All of the tobacco came from Cuba and was rolled here.

On the 600 block of Duval sits the San Carlos Institute. The San Carlos was originally a school for Cuban children whose parents came to Key West. It’s a beautiful facility, the current structure having been built in the 1870’s. It was owned by the Cuban government up until the Cuban revolution.

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The classrooms have ceilings that are 20ft high! It’s the type of structure you would find in Old Havana.

The underlying point here, of course is that Key West and Cuba are very closely connected.

Years ago, I had heard that Key West and Havana were “Sister Cities”. In doing this piece I researched that and found nothing unfortunately. Perhaps I was mis-informed? I’m not certain. However, as at one point the citizens of Cuba referred to Key West as “Habana Norte”, what could they be other than sister cities? Perhaps this can be a quest to be achieved?

Most of my professional life was in sales. In my time in Miami, I worked for a man named “Joe D”, or “Mr. D.” who owned a large firm and not only owned it, but was also the general manager and took a very active role in the sales department.

Mr. D. would hold weekly sales meetings and one of the things he instilled on the sales staff was “selling the sizzle” that our product offered. Sure, someone may come in and say they were looking at a Corvette, but wanted to look at a Porsche as well. Of course the Porsche was a better car, but we had to show the potential customer why it was better. Such as Porsche won thirteen victories at Le Mans, plus two victories in cars that used their engines. Things like that. Nothing B/S, just highlights that make a Porsche a thoroughbred and not a run of the mill car. The Porsche costs significantly more than the Corvette, a cost that must be justified.

The exact same thing is true with Key West being the ideal point of disembarkation to Cuba, in the very near future. Sure, anyone can take a flight out of Miami to Havana, or Tampa, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, San Juan, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles, for that matter. All are already authorized to fly to Cuba. Plus, lets face facts. When the time comes and Cuba frees up for the average person to fly to Cuba, on a whim, at that, the vast majority will fly out of those aforementioned cities.

Key West is a small, quaint little town that is an island less than two miles wide and four miles long sitting on the very outer fringes of the United States, only ninety miles from Cuba. It’s “Habana Norte”, perhaps by then, a sister city. Perhaps one can fly to Key West for a week and take a day or two excursion to Havana? The Hemingway connection alone, between Key West and Havana, is unparalleled.

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 There are all kinds of ideas people can have use Key West as the Gateway to Cuba. Like the aforementioned Porsche, one sometimes needs to show the attributes, the panache, and the romance as the reason to go to Cuba from the Key West. Another very wise sales manager and friend I worked with, Rick Asci, often said “Often the best deal is not always the best price”. If that’s not the truth, I don’t know what is!

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As Time goes on, I’ll visit the subject of Key West and Cuba as things develop. We’re only at the embryonic stage at this point.

However, there’s no reason at all that Key West can’t be considered “The Gateway To Cuba”.

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Cafe Cubano/Cuban Coffee

Cafe Cubano/Cuban Coffee

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Cuban Coffee/Cafe Cubano is a staple throughout south Florida. Key West, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, you name it!

My friend from Louisiana, a Cajun, Gus Gravot, who moved to Virginia in the last year (I bet he gets a lot of comments on that Cajun accent there! HA HA! Go Gus!) sent me this piece in the New York Times from February 6, 2015 entitled “In Key West, a Taste of Cuban Coffee Culture”, written by  Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan.

This set the stage and was the incentive for me to write this piece. I'd thought about it before, but put it aside. However, when I saw this in print, with the New York Times no less, I knew it was time to set the record straight as to what is Cuban Coffee/Cafe Cubano, and what is coffee from Cuba. While it is a fantastic subject and I thank Ms. Tan for writing it, Ms.Tan no doubt got her information from people in Key West who are not that well educated in Cafe Cubano. Here I'll try to make things clear regarding the coffees from Cuba that we throughout south Florida imbibe.

First, to set the stage from where I'm basing what I'm saying, I lived in Miami, the largest Cuban enclave outside of Cuba, for over twenty five years. While there, I was also married to my first wife, a wonderful Cuban girl named Mercy (formal - Mercedes), who brought me into her wonderful family long before we were married. I've been living in Key West seven years this May.So, thirty two years total.

In Miami, as well as being part of the Eguizabal family, I was immersed into Cuban culture. When I moved to Key West, almost seven years ago, I found the Cuban culture to be interesting. Some things were different here than in Miami culturally.

One thing that's different is that Key West has a constant flow of people moving in and out of town, from all over the globe, the majority from the U.S., however many from eastern Europe as well.  Miami has a constant flow of people moving in from Latin America, and also the English and Creole speaking Caribbean. In Key West, population flows like the tides. People come and go. In Miami it's a lake that continues filling up. People come and they stay. Key West is much more of a transient town.

With the scenario set, lets move on to Cuban coffee, or Cafe Cubano.

What is Cafe Cubano, or Cuban Coffee? For starters, Cafe Cubano and Cuban Coffee are correct terms for the brew, just in different languages. Either can be used.

Professional establishments that serve all types of coffees from Cuba, use Italian espresso makers virtually exclusively.  After all, Cafe Cubano, of course, is a style, or type of espresso.

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In the home, often you will often find these little "Cafetera" brewers, as they are called in Spanish, also from Italy. For less than $10, they do surprisingly well, though they are not set up for scalding milk, obviously. Cuban homes with these usually scald their milk, when needed, via stove top.

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Cuban Coffee/Cafe Cubano


Cuban Coffee is one thing and one thing only. Cuban Coffee is espresso made with a good sized helping of sugar. Done the proper way, three or four tbs of sugar are placed in the brewing carafe prior to brewing, in a proper espresso machine. As the espresso brews and flows into the carafe, the brewer stirs the mix creating a medium-brown head on the coffee called "espumita".

This is Cuban coffee.

Here in Key West when someone orders Cuban coffee, often the person taking the order will ask "With or without sugar?". The only reason they do this is because a lot of visitors don't want it with sugar. The key word here, of course, is "visitors". The question would never arise in a place such as Little Havana, Miami.

The reality of it is, those people ordering "Cuban Coffee" without sugar, are not ordering Cuban Coffee at all. They are ordering espresso. Cafe Cubano is full of body. Espresso is much thinner.

The aforementioned formula of making Cafe Cubano/Cuban Coffee with the sugar, is what makes it Cuban Coffee!

When one takes into consideration that sugar is the number one crop in Cuba, it's easy to see how Cafe Cubano came into existence!

                                      Types of Cuban Coffee
Cuban Coffee is all the exact same thing, the differences is the quantity in how it's dispensed.

A) Colada - The colada is the largest serving. It's purpose is to be shared with others. It's served in a small Styrofoam cup and it contains several ounces of coffee, around 4 or so. It is also served with several thimble cups for sharing.

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B) Cafecito/Buchi - This is an individual serving the size of one of the thimble cups that the colada is served with, a slight bit larger when served in a restaurant in a demitasse cup. Depending on where you are, determines the name. In Miami/Ft. Lauderdale/Tampa/St. Petersburg it's called a Cafecito. Translated it means "little coffee". In Key West it's called a Buchi, which is short for Buchito, or "a small sip".

* = For reasons unknown, many people spell buchi in what they think is Italian, bucci. You'll see this in the article that Gus sent me in one of the pictures. Fact is, there is no Italian word bucci. The Ch sound, as in the English word "Crunch", in Spanish is spelled "ch". There is no such spelling in Spanish that has "cc". The word is spelled "Buchi"

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Cafecito, or a buchi


Now that we have established what a Cuban Coffee/Cafe Cubano is, lets look at two other coffees that originate from Cuba.

A) Cafe Con Leche - Cafe Con Leche is the Cuban variation of what in Italy is a "Latte" and in France, "Cafe Au Lait" or, "Creme". The coffee and scalded milk parts are exactly the same. With the Cafe Con Leche, often called "Con Leche", Cafe Cubano is mixed on around a 2 to 1 mix with scalded milk holding the 2 side of things.

Cafe Con Leche is not Cuban Coffee!

Many who come to Key West from parts where Cuban culture doesn't exist, just toss cafe con leche into the whole Cuban Coffee mix. They developed this idea that there is Cuban Coffee with milk and without. This is incorrect. Cafe Con Leche is from Cuba, however it is not Cuban Coffee, though it uses Cuban Coffee in the process of making it. Cafe Con Leche, is Cafe Con Leche. Period.

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B) Cortadito - The Cortadito is quite similar to the Cafe Con Leche, with the exception that the Cortadito is 1/2 coffee and one half scalded milk. It's often referred  to as a "Half and Half" or a "media y media"

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So there's a brief explanation of the coffees of Cuba that contributes to the whole Florida coffee culture.

Big thanks to Mercy Irene Eguizabal and Gloria Nunez Turkel for helping with some of the translations!!!! Gracias damas!!!