The sweet smell of fresh roasted coffee beans wafted under my nostrils as the server placed an over-sized coffee cup on the table in front of me. Over-sized. Yes, I was expecting an average coffee mug. Maybe china, maybe something artsy. This was Deland, after all. An artsy-university town in Central Florida. But what I got a barbie-doll could have used as a plunge pool. Or a hot tub. 16 ounces of heady goodness. The cream even did a little happy-swirl in the cup as the steam rose. I already knew this coffee was special.
I took a sip from the cup. Oh wow! A perfect trifecta of java, cream and sugar. I know my eyes widened, because the server smiled. I could tell she was accustomed to the reaction.
Memorable Lunch in Downtown Deland, Florida
It was Wednesday afternoon and my friend Di and I had accidentally stumbled onto Chica’s Cuban Cafe in downtown Deland, Florida.
We had just finished a morning of kayaking, tubing & manatee-spotting at Blue Spring State Park in nearby Orange City and were in search of a place to eat. A woman in the park rental shop recommended a place south, but we were on our way to the annual Florida Outdoor Writers Association Conference in Daytona Beach, so we headed north instead and hoped to find a bite along the way.
“There’s a coffeehouse downtown,” Di said.
My stomach chose that moment to grumble out loud. I was too hungry for mere coffee-house menus. “Anything else?”
She checked her phone while I drove. “Do you like Cuban food?”
Diane Bedard, better known as the Naturecoaster, a local news e-zine writer & publisher, is a coffee aficionado. Whenever we chanced to meet up, there was always coffee or a coffeehouse involved. So it may have been the siren lure of Cuban coffee that prompted her to suggest this from the given listings. She directed me down a side street in downtown Deland and I found a space in the parking area behind a quaint old house with the sign “Chica’s Cuban Cafe.”
We walked through the patio area, a colorful mural of Havana decorated one wall. It was too hot to sit outside, so in we went- a house that was a cafe. The back room was full, even though the lunch hour had well passed. We found a table in the front room, with a view of a glass case filled with fresh guava pastries. Enter drool-mode.
And although I usually reserve my own coffee-habits for the morning, something about the cozy interior of Chica’s Cuban Cafe made me order the coffee.
Di knew exactly what kind of coffee to order. She knew her java well. Cafe con leche. Two parts milk, one part espresso.
My order? “What she said- but with sugar, please.”
“You have to try our flan-cheesecake. It goes well with the coffee,” the server said, her lips curved in a smile. Service with suggestions and a smile? We had surely stumbled upon a treasure!
I had just ordered the Cuban lunch special and together with the coffee con leche, but I wasn’t sure if I’d have enough room for dessert.
And then that cup of coffee came.
The Art of Coffee
A really good cup of coffee does odd things to people.
It makes you want to linger.
To sit and chat.
To just watch the world go by.
Coffee wasn’t meant to be chugged. It was meant to be sipped slowly- to savor the flavors. The richness. To inhale the heady fragrance of fresh ground coffee beans.
There is a reason why European cities overflow with sidewalk cafes, where guests while their hours away with coffee and companions. Why coffeehouses are popular hangouts stateside. And coffee bars are so trendy.
The fine art of drinking coffee should be listed as a form of meditation, but perhaps the caffeine knocks it off the healthy-lifestyle list 😉
Americans consume over 400 million cups of coffee a day- enough to call it a popular hobby- or even a sport- and that’s a whole lot of java. So in the world of the roasted brew, to find the one cup that makes you smile and go mmmm is truly a special treat.
There’s an art to creating the perfect coffee. To introduce a symbiotic relationship between simple ingredients and masterful technique. And like good art, not everyone is able to do it well. Chica’s Cuban Cafe did. And in giving this cup of coffee the reverence it deserved, we enjoyed our coffees and lingered.
We lingered through pressed Cuban sandwiches and black beans and rice- a popular lunch special offered at Chica’s. Then we took the server’s suggestion and lingered through the Flan Cheesecake.
If you love cheesecake and you love flan- this is a dream dessert not to be missed. Rich and creamy- it’s literally half cheesecake – half flan- and goes perfect with the coffee 😉
Had we not an appointment to keep, I would have suggested another coffee, but time constraints restricted us from over-indulging.
As we departed, I glanced back with a smile. Who knew I would uncover this ritual that spanned centuries- the fine art of coffee- drinking in downtown Deland, Florida?
Chica’s Cuban Cafe- I will return!
*Chica’s Cuban Cafe has since relocated from it’s little side street location to the Hotel Artisan Downtown at 215 S. Woodland Blvd DeLand, Florida 32720. (386) 469-9969.
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