Much of the media are on a Fidel Castro deathwatch lately. They’ve undoubtedly queued up their pre-edited TV specials on his life and his impact on Cuba and the world, ready to roll the tape at the first sign of sleep apnea. But for every staunch communist revolutionary, there are dozens of eager capitalists in the world who see his passing as the IPO of “Cuba, Inc.”: KTLA The WB | Where Los Angeles Lives | Businesses Eye Return to a Post-Castro Island.
You might say that the Souto family, Cuban expatriates now living in South Florida, fall into that latter category. They have owned what is now Rowland Roasters for several generations. Under brand names such as Megdalia D’Oro, Café Bustelo, and Café Pilon, Rowland Roasters is credited with supplying 80% of America’s espresso coffee (i.e., coffee explicitly marketed for use as espresso). Of course, the majority of what they sell comes pre-ground and in cans — and, IMHO, tastes like it’s been lying around for several generations. But that still doesn’t stop them from calling themselves “America’s foremost espresso experts”.
The Souto family hopes to sell Café Pilon to the Cubans once again, as it was once Cuba’s most popular brand. They also hope to turn to Cuba for coffee production — replacing some of their Ecuador and Guatemala supplies with Cuban-grown arabica beans from the Sierra Maestra region.
Of course, capitalists have salivated for decades over the prospect of being able to sell to China’s one-billion-plus consumers — only to learn that the Chinese are ultimately doing the selling, not the buying. And whenever it comes to Castro’s health and Cuba’s business climate, your bets might be safer on Mel Gibson negotiating peace in the Middle East.
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