To many people, coffee is just coffee. The ultimate beverage that gets you going in the morning. But to Kaitlyn Reyes, a writer from our FIU Florida International University chapter, it's so much more. For Kaitlyn, coffee, specifically Café Bustelo, means family. She has fond memories of her grandfather brewing Café Bustelo during her childhood. "I've basically grown up drinking Café Bustelo, so we go way back," she told us. "[He] use[d] to take me to cafecito events [in Miami] when I was younger and we would come home with baskets and baskets of it." 

Café Bustelo caught our attention when it was delivered to our office (people quickly became obsessed). When we dug into the “coffee break in a box,” we learned about the other aspects that make it so much more than a caffeine fix, including a scholarship that supports college students with Latino roots. This spring, Café Bustelo is partnering with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities to award ten Latino students a $5,000 academic scholarship. Obviously, this is awesome and we were excited to share it with our community of college badasses, but we had to ask ourselves, "Why is a coffee brand doing this?"

We dove head first into figuring this out and quickly discovered that it was for the same reason the brand has become so popular: Café Bustelo believes in more than just coffee—they believe in giving back to the Latino community.

A Look Back in Time

Café Bustelo first began as a storefront in NYC's Spanish Harlem in 1928. Nearly a century after its inception, the brand continues to live up to its mission of celebrating Latino culture and connecting generations through shared experiences. We surveyed our Spoon community and there was no shortage of accounts explaining how Café Bustelo had positively impacted their lives and their heritage. 

One contributor whose life was especially changed by Café Bustelo was Gabrielle Garcia, a writer at our FSU chapter. In fact, her grandfather, Manuel Garcia, was responsible for pioneering the rich taste of Café Bustelo in Miami. "Though my grandfather didn’t know much about the coffee industry, he sure knew how to drink his espresso—and claimed Café Bustelo to be the best coffee in New York," she writes.

According to Garcia, her grandfather met with the one and only Gregorio Bustelo in New York City and pitched him the idea of opening a franchise in Miami. Following some negotiation, Garcia's grandfather purchased a franchise from the parent company in NYC and became the sole distributor of Café Bustelo in South Florida in 1949.

Manuel Garcia's obituary, published in the Tampa Bay Times, even notes that he and his business partner, Antonio Fernandez, were responsible for the tremendous growth of Café Bustelo in the South Florida Latino Community.

Witnessing your culture flourish in a new place is incredible, but ensuring that it continues to grow is crucial. Café Bustelo has mastered both: it's a warm reminder of home, and its existence has helped preserve Latino culture for many years. "Café Bustelo is more than just a coffee brand, but a beacon of possibility—a demonstration of what can become of one’s dreams, determination and innovations," writes Garcia.

One of the photographers at our FIU chapter, Marissa Rodriquez, emphasized, "It's important to reinvest in the Latino community because more people from Latino countries (such as Puerto Rico, Colombia and the Dominican Republic) are coming to America and bringing their cultural traditions with them to share with everyone." Witnessing your culture flourish in a new place is incredible, but ensuring that it continues to grow is crucial. Café Bustelo has truly mastered both: it's a warm reminder of home and its existence has actually helped preserve Latino culture over many decades.

The Future of Latino Culture in College

As we spoke with more Latino students about their heritage, we learned that the feeling of "home" sometimes ends when they leave their family's kitchen table and that the feel-good Latino traditions don't quite make it to college. Katarina Romero, from Spoon University's FIU chapter, believes it's imperative that universities invest more in their Latino communities on campus, and bring that feeling of home to college. "It’s important for our culture to be represented on campus. Without [it], our school wouldn’t cater to many of its students or portray a unique part of our school that separates us from the rest of the Florida universities."

Emily Weaver, editorial director of Spoon’s University of Iowa chapter, believes Latino culture goes beyond producing or selling a product. “Latino food culture [can be tied back to] something that someone's great-great-great grandpa made in his kitchen decades ago and has evolved over time. It’s a very family-oriented culture that can easily be brought into your (the consumer's) home,” she says. 

In hosting this scholarship, Café Bustelo is already one step ahead. In the same way the brand celebrated Latino culture in America when it first began, Café Bustelo in 2018 is making sure Latino culture on college campuses thrives. 

All Hispanic students are encouraged to apply for the academic scholarship, but be sure to head on over to the HACU website first to see if you're eligible. To apply, all you need to do is write an 800-word essay describing how your heritage, family and community in which you grew up inspired you to get a college degree and how you plan on giving back to your respective community.

#SpoonTip: All submissions must be received by Friday, May 25, 2018.

Right Now, Sitting, With a Cup of Coffee

coffee, tea, espresso, milk, cappuccino, bed, cozy, Morning, mug
Caroline Ingalls

In addition to sending young, brilliant people to college and doing other superhero-like things, Café Bustelo also makes some damn good coffee. So good that Gregorio Bustelo's original blend still remains a secret. But we do know for sure that the espresso-style coffee, found in the iconic yellow and red can, is dark, pure and flavorful. Additionally, it's self-proclaimed to be "roasted and ground from the finest coffees in the world."

For Magdalena Ferran, a writer at Spoon’s UVA chapter, brands such as Café Bustelo are closely associated with family and love. “Being surrounded by them makes me feel so at home. That’s why I always have these products at school with me, it’s like a comfort thing,” she says. “I associate them with being at my uncle’s waterside apartment in Ponce, walking the streets of Viejo San Juan with my family or being at my abuelos’ apartment in the Bronx, where Hispanic culture literally envelopes you.”  

Dafna Liberman, the Marketing Director at Spoon FIU, said it best, "Flavors make us travel in time, travel in space and travel in spirit, so I always bring back those memories with my morning Bustelo cafecito and my delicious arepas. For me, there is nothing better."

We couldn't agree more. 

If you're new to Café Bustelo, try it for yourself, and if you're ready to share what you love most about your Latino heritage, submit your scholarship application here

This post is sponsored by Café Bustelo.