McDonald's Should Dump Its "Cafe con Leche"

Categories: Fuming Foodie
fuming_foodie 240.jpg
I'm over it.

First Pollo Tropical decides to Americanize the menu of its restaurants in the Northeast to attract more Anglo diners, then Dunkin' Donuts comes out with the "Cuban Flatbread Sandwich," and now, in what just might be one of the most derogatory forms of flattery I have ever seen, McDonald's has introduced the "café con leche" as the newest member of its McCafe menu.

When I first heard this yesterday, I hoped it was a sick McJoke. But, after visiting the McDonald's on 87th Avenue in Doral last night, I realized the joke is on me -- a female Cuban-American. The rumor was true.

Where do I begin? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, at least that's what people say. What about imitation as parody? While it's cute that McDonald's is trying to reach out to the Hispanic population, namely Cubans, the way it has chosen to do so is not flattering -- it is disrespectful.

Mccafe coffee machine.jpg
via Flickr bizmac
I am the WIzard! The almighty Wizard of Oz!
Before I headed over to try this abomination, I called a manager at a McDonald's in Doral. I asked if it was a "real" café con leche. "Yes," came the answer.

Made with real Cuban or Colombian coffee?

"Uh, yes."

Hmmmm. Imagine my displeasure when I visited the McDonald's on 87 Avenue in Doral and spoke with Marlon, the manager on duty. "It's Arabic coffee; it's almost the same thing. It's not Bustelo or anything, but it's good." It's Arabic coffee, he says. Almost the same thing, he says. Yes, your honor, I murdered him in cold blood, I say.

I'm not sure how familiar you are with Arabic (Arabian?) coffee, but it tastes like old, burnt coffee. It is extremely bitter and leaves a nasty aftertaste in your mouth. Not so with our beloved Pilon.

Second and almost as important is the fact that the milk and coffee come already mixed at McBlasé. If you're Latino, heck, most likely even if you just grew up in Miami, Latino or not, you know that one of the sacred aspects of ordering your café con leche is the fact that you can order it to your liking. Clarito, por favor. Light on the coffee, please. Oscuro -- dark. At McDonald's? "You'll have it our way."

The third thing, and this was just painful to watch, is that the beverage comes out of what looks like a high-tech coffee vending machine. The workers push a few buttons, and Voila! Instant motor oil.

The rub lies here -- if you want to reach out to a certain demographic -- don't do so by commercializing and massacring stuff that they hold dear. What's next? The McMedia Noche made with ham, turkey, and American cheese?

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36 comments
Steve
Steve

I can't believe how ignorant you are. First of all, since when would a publication like the New Times allow you to use derogatory terms like gringo? You never once mentioned how the the actual beverage tasted, which is your job right? I mean what kind of food critic are you? This whole article was centered around your emotional discourse due to Mc Donald's selling a beverage that you feel they are not experienced to. Get over it everything is mass produced these days and that isn't always a bad thing. I think that you have a lot of growing up to do. You really shouldn't have a job that deals with the public like this until you know how to speak intelligently. Next time try to talk about food and give an objective opinion.

Dave Buckhorn
Dave Buckhorn

Ily, you're an idiot.  That being said, you shouldn't use the New Times as soapbox for spewing your snobbish commentary.  Your journalism professors would disassociate themselves from you if they read this.  Next time, check out the link below, which contains more facts than your entry.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C...

Critic Al
Critic Al

The strange thing is you never mention actually drinking and tasting the coffee. Wouldn't that be of some importance in a review? It seems that you are the only one being "disrespectful." McDonalds should pull all their ads from the New TImes until they fire your ass; You suck.

Mia33138
Mia33138

What self-respecting Foodie admits to eating at the Golden Arches?

crapsonyaks
crapsonyaks

Oh no! Not a medianoche with American cheese! Swiss maybe....but AMERICANO! OH HELL NAW

Ishondish
Ishondish

Mc Blase ....ha ha ha...I needed that!

Sblais
Sblais

Ily,

Really I am surprised you did not do some research before you posted this blog. You speak with authority but yet what you say lacks the weight of authority because you spoke without knowlege. Not about the cafe con leche since I woul never question your heritage.

What I am talking about is knowlegeabou the coffe in general. First I am sure that you heard Arabic and that may well have been what the manager said but I am also equaly sure that what the manage meant to say was Arabica. I say this becasue McDonalds Espresso is 100% Arabica. As has been mentioned Arabica and Robusto are your choices here.

The things that can differentiate coffee flavor can be the green bean "origin" (based on altitude, acidity of soil etc), the roast, and the extraction method. 

Next it is important to note that that are many different methods to extract coffee; however the two that are the most common in the United States are Drip and Espresso (A coffee beverage extracted under pressure).

The cafe con leche is an espresso based drink with hot milk added on top. Althogh it can be made with coffee extracted in a stove top coffee pot this may be the method you are familar with.

The reason that the cafe con leche was compared to a caffe latte is because cafe con leche translated into english is basically coffee with milk and caffe latte translated into english is coffee and milk. The only difference I believe between the two is the ratio of milk to coffee.

With that said McDonalds uses what is called a 1 step superautomatic espresso machine which grind the coffee fresh for every shot of espresso, the ground coffee is dropped in what is called a piston (the equavlant of a porta filter on a traditional espresso machine) a tamp compresses the coffee to a precise pressure and hot water under pressure is forced through the compressed coffee in the piston. making an espresso shot. Milk is steamed in a seperate part of the machine to heat the milk. And there you have a coffee with milk.

It may take the show out of the process but you still end up with a coffee with milk. 

It is a shame that you feel insulted by McDonalds using what I am sure you consider to be a cultural icon for commercial use but to be honest "ma and pa cafe's" everywhere have been doing this for years; McDonalds is just taking it to a whole new level. Really it is naive of you to have beleived that in this coffee frenzied world we live in (which is the United States) that your beloved drink would not end up being exploited.

Let's be honest about this however if any culture should be offended it should be the Italians we (the rest of the world) took their iconic coffee beverage and coffee based beverages and twisted them to suit our cultural tastes and methods of preperation.

Recommendation don't go to McDonald's for a cafe con leche if you dislike the method of preparation, but for heavens sake find something more important to be offended over.  

Beast
Beast

This was a piss poor article written by an ignorant author. Please do your homework before you put your name to it next time.

Gabe
Gabe

No way! Their cafe con leche isn't authentic??? 

Wow, next thing you know, someone will discover that their french fries aren't really sourced from France...

washed up
washed up

I take offense to the word gringo. You are the worst writer in the History of the English language.

Joyce Truax Stanley
Joyce Truax Stanley

I'm not sure if I agree or not with the commentator.. EVERYTHING is marketing today.. AND who is to say they are just trying to reach the Cuban Market. I love cuban coffee.. and am NOT Cuban.. But I will thank you for letting us ALL know that it's NOT Cuban Coffee .. now I won't even bother to try it.. what a let down.. but really what can you expect from "fast food" certainly not quality food.  Cuban or not.. avoiding fast food is just plain smart. 

NickR
NickR

So if I'm reading this correctly, the author has issues with sourcing, selection, and mechanization of food. At McDonalds.

Fool.

Kelmian
Kelmian

Before you make assumtions on how McDonald's markets to the region their stores are in you should get a little more info... McDonald's has had the McCafe system for some time now and sells lattes. This is true all over the U.S.A. Now in S.Fla... a latte is a cafe con leche... the machine that made it for you is designed to allow minimal training. It does not store pre ground coffee beans but whole beans in a top hopper and upon request then it ground, brews, and mixes the milk... so yeah you can't special order your cafe con leche the way you like it but then why are you going to McDonald's for it in the first place. It is way over priced compared to a true cuban cafeteria

Don Lorenzo
Don Lorenzo

All coffee originated in Africa, near present day Ethiopia, just as all Potatoes originated in South America and all Chocolate originated in Central America. 

Don Lorenzo
Don Lorenzo

Um, maybe they make bad coffee, but Ily, you should learn what you are talking about first because you sound pretty silly. There are 2 main types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusto. Most quality coffee grown throughout The Americas including Colombia (where I used to live) is of the Arabica variety. I don't know if McDonald's coffee is good or not, I almost never go there, but you spouting off about coffee makes you sound pretty silly and an example of a poor journalist.

JD
JD

I imagine the manager meant to say Arabica coffee, which IS standard. It's a type of coffee bean popular in Latin America.

JG
JG

McDonald's localizes their menu in every country.

Ily Goyanes
Ily Goyanes

I went to McDonald's specifically to try the cafe con leche, not that I have to defend myself if I actually chose to eat there occasionally. There are many foodies, chefs, and restaurant critics who say they have a guilty pleasure when it comes to food, usually involving some kind of fast food or junk food. I've heard everything from Big Macs to Twinkies. Sometimes junk tastes good. I happen to dislike McDonald's, but I do love me some pepperoni and cheese flavored Combos. 

Foodie # 1
Foodie # 1

Sblais, you are no cafe con leche expert, or you would know that the cafe has to be brewed fresh each time, in order for the cafe con leche to taste good. It tastes disgusting when it comes out already blended. Who in heaven wants to drink a preconceived McDonald's notion of how they want their cafe con leche? Only poor souls sitting around hospital waiting rooms and construction workers who depend on the traveling lunch trucks to their sites have to gulp this down, since they don't have much choice. Now, the good thing about McDonald's is that they have very clean restaurants, they try items out and listen to their customers. No one can expect them to get it 100% right the first time. But I am flattered, as a Cuban-American, that they brought our iconic drink to the masses. How many times have I not gone to McDonald's because I wanted a cafe con leche with my meal. So if they separate the cafe and the milk so it doesn't come out so black, since I like it light, and change the cafe to Bustelo or Pilon, they have a loyal customer here. I really enjoyed this article. The reporter cares about defending foodies' rights. Thank you. 

Vulva
Vulva

Haterz r fuNny. TrOll, lOlz.

queen-o-mean
queen-o-mean

"French" refers to the way they are cut not their origin. 

Ily Goyanes
Ily Goyanes

I agree with you 100%. Everything today is marketing. That's why I am annoyed that McDonald's is marketing this fast-food beverage as cafe con leche. And I know that many Latinos drink cafe con leche, but from McDonald's point of view, it probably sees all Miami Latinos as Cubans. One more reason that it shouldn't be trying to mass market our traditional foods. You made me think of something just now -- I bet Mexicans can't be too happy with gringos thinking of Taco Bell as Mexican food. Ay, dios mio.

Ily Goyanes
Ily Goyanes

Not exactly, NickJr. I have problems with McDonald's putting out cafe con leche the same way the out out burgers. 

Jhonny Seafood
Jhonny Seafood

This blog used to be about the restaurant scene in Miami now its about useless shit.

Ily Goyanes
Ily Goyanes

Hi Kelmian,

I never stated that the McCafe system is new -- only that the cafe con leche item is new.

Apart from the fact that the machine that makes the beverage is "designed to allow minimal training" as you stated, it is also designed for speed and efficiency, ie., mass production. I don't want my cafe con leche mass produced. 

Your statement that "a latte is a cafe con leche" is debatable, but I'm not going there. But I will ask this -- are you saying then that the latte and the cafe con lunch served at the, lol, McCafe are (drumroll, please) the exact same item? Because that would make a great article.

Your last statement, "so yeah you can't special order your cafe con leche the way you like it but then why are you going to McDonald's for it in the first place. It is way over priced compared to a true cuban cafeteria" is kind of in defense of what I'm saying, so I'm not sure how to respond.

Thanks for the feedback.

Ily Goyanes
Ily Goyanes

That would make it a little better, but didn't the Arabica coffee berry originate in Africa? 

Mia33138
Mia33138

 All of your back peddling is hysterical & was worth the read just to laugh.  You went to the house of Ronald with the intention to flame them.

Reading your article reminded me of an insecure ex-girlfriend that was intent on catching me cheating and then got upset when she caught me with her friend.  Just saying people find what they set out to look for.

Grimace
Grimace

So basically you already hated McDonald's and went in to bash them? Where is the objectivity? Isn't that the core of being a critic?

twat.

Sblais
Sblais

Foodie # 1 with all due respect, I never claimed to be a cafe con leche expert.

However it is clear that you do not understand the function of a super automatic espresso machine because if you did you would know that every time a new drink is made it is made with coffee that is "brewed fresh" as you termed it.

A superautomatic espresso machine grinds whole bean coffee fresh for every shot of espresso. This is done for every drink so a fresh shot of espresso ("fresh brewed") is dispensed for every drink.

Now the milk should be added after the shot of espresso but I do not know how the machine at McDonald's are programmed they could be adding the coffee on top of the milk wich is in the wrong order as I understand it for cafe con leche. This milk is not mixed at any point in the machine with the espresso; it is done in the cup just like a traditional cafe con leche.

By the way Pilon and Bustelo are both brand names. Cafe Pilon roasts 100% arabica espresso, as well as having instant coffee. Cafe Bustelo also supplies espresso roast as well as instant coffee, you will even find cool cafe con leche for sale in cans at Javacabana.com.

100% arabica espresso is what is being used at McDoanld's and if you can tell the difference between a roaster of one espresso over another with a beverage made with milk then you exception to the rule.

likeitis
likeitis

Sorry child, but no gringos (which is a derogatory term I might point out) think of Taco Bell as Mexican food. Please. Hispanics are catered to by corporations like mickeyd's  because their marketing strategies take into account that hispanics will be the majority in this country soon and guess what? Marketing a generic version of your beloved cultural food will continue because they don't care about your tradition....they want your money. Now we get to sit back and watch you complain because they disrespected your COFFEE? Please. If you are going to use your time and energy to write a food column, try figuring out how to help feed the poor in your own city you... elitist... twit.

Sblais
Sblais

Ily,Really I am surprised you did not do some research before you posted this blog. You speak with authority but yet what you say lacks the weight of authority because you spoke without knowlege. Not about the cafe con leche since I woul never question your heritage.What I am talking about is knowlegeabou the coffe in general. First I am sure that you heard Arabic and that may well have been what the manager said but I am also equaly sure that what the manage meant to say was Arabica. I say this becasue McDonalds Espresso is 100% Arabica. As has been mentioned Arabica and Robusto are your choices here.The things that can differentiate coffee flavor can be the green bean "origin" (based on altitude, acidity of soil etc), the roast, and the extraction method. Next it is important to note that that are many different methods to extract coffee; however the two that are the most common in the United States are Drip and Espresso (A coffee beverage extracted under pressure).The cafe con leche is an espresso based drink with hot milk added on top. Althogh it can be made with coffee extracted in a stove top coffee pot this may be the method you are familar with.The reason that the cafe con leche was compared to a caffe latte is because cafe con leche translated into english is basically coffee with milk and caffe latte translated into english is coffee and milk. The only difference I believe between the two is the ratio of milk to coffee.With that said McDonalds uses what is called a 1 step superautomatic espresso machine which grind the coffee fresh for every shot of espresso, the ground coffee is dropped in what is called a piston (the equavlant of a porta filter on a traditional espresso machine) a tamp compresses the coffee to a precise pressure and hot water under pressure is forced through the compressed coffee in the piston. making an espresso shot. Milk is steamed in a seperate part of the machine to heat the milk. And there you have a coffee with milk.It may take the show out of the process but you still end up with a coffee with milk. It is a shame that you feel insulted by McDonalds using what I am sure you consider to be a cultural icon for commercial use but to be honest "ma and pa cafe's" everywhere have been doing this for years; McDonalds is just taking it to a whole new level. Really it is naive of you to have beleived that in this coffee frenzied world we live in (which is the United States) that your beloved drink would not end up being exploited.Let's be honest about this however if any culture should be offended it should be the Italians we (the rest of the world) took their iconic coffee beverage and coffee based beverages and twisted them to suit our cultural tastes and methods of preperation.Recommendation don't go to McDonald's for a cafe con leche if you dislike the method of preparation, but for heavens sake find something more important to be offended over.

Coffee Drinker
Coffee Drinker

get ur shit straight before u spread ur ignorant rants about coffee. u think mcdonalds is being disrespectful? take a look at yourself.

Marylu
Marylu

"100% Arabica coffee" reads the Pilon Espresso package.

Ily Goyanes
Ily Goyanes

I'm glad that everyone feels as strongly as I do about this subject; thanks for all the research and comments. The manager told me that the coffee was "arabic," not "aribica," and I confirmed this with him, since I thought it sounded strange (even for McDonald's). So, he either made a mistake, or we are all talking about arabica coffee for no reason since it doesn't apply.

Let's even say for the sake of argument, that the manager was wrong and it is arabica coffee. It comes out of a machine. It is already mixed and sitting inside the bowels of a machine until somebody orders it. I don't like stale coffee.As much as I appreciate the comments, I think that the point of my column is being missed. I don't appreciate a cheap, commercialized version of a traditional Cuban beverage, the same way I don't appreciate Yoo-Hoo as chocolate milk. Before everyone jumps on me, let me elucidate further. Although many Latinos indulge in cafe con leche, it is a "Cuban thing," if I may paraphrase the Jersey Shore kids. We're given cafe con leche as babies. All our cafeterias and bakeries have those three precious words on the windows, beckoning patrons to come inside. At McDonald's, the coffee and milk come already mixed and it comes out of a giant machine -- I just don't like it. When a gluttonous, socially irresponsible corporation takes the beverage that my grandmother used to make me for breakfast and cheapens it, it rubs me the wrong way. 

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