D.C. celebrates “305 Day” with congressional cafecito challenge (includes video story)

The aroma of coffee filled the South Florida congressional offices Thursday morning as Representatives fought for the champion title of the first Congressional Cafecito Challenge. The four participants in the competition were the offices of representatives Mario Díaz-Balart, Carlos Giménez, María Elvira Salazar, and Frederica Wilson.

The competition for the best cafecito, or Cuban coffee, on Capitol Hill was initiated by Wilson on Twitter back in October when she tweeted, “Wherever I go, I bring the 305 with me! My office makes the best cafecito on Capitol Hill. #CafecitoChallenge?”

This resulted in Díaz-Balart, Giménez, and Salazar’s offices responding that their office’s cafecito was better. The challenge was accepted, prompting the four to set up their espresso makers and put their best staff cafeteros to the test.

The winner was set to be announced on March 5, 2024, also known as “305 Day.”

The tournament kicked off at 9 a.m. Díaz-Balart’s office was the first to serve the judges. Among those for the first round were former Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Miami-Dade Director of Federal Affairs Phillip Drujack.

Neon signs of flamingos and palm trees decorated the scene as staff members got to work on their cafecito and served it in their “Patria y Vida” cafecito cups.

“This is ten points right here,” said Ros-Lehtinen before trying the coffee, referring to the Cuban cups with the slogan that defined the liberation movement in Cuba.

While heading over to the second contestant’s office, Executive Director of the Florida House Diana Beckmann joined in to judge the cafecito challenge at Giménez’s office.

The cafecito served at Giménez’s office was poured into the “authentic” thumbnail plastic cups which Ros-Lehtinen said, “gets a thumbs up,” after taking a sip. The other judges described the coffee as “rich.”

After Giménez’s office, cafecito judge Ros-Lehtinen had to catch her flight to Miami before arriving at Salazar’s and Wilson’s office.

“We put a lot of force in our mixing,” said Salazar’s communications director, Mariza Smajlaj, when asked what makes their cafecito different from the rest. Judges Drujack and Beckmann approved of its taste.

The last stop for the coffee tournament was Wilson’s office, the representative who started it all. Upon arrival, the judges were greeted with pastelitos and croquetas, Cuban pastries and croquettes, along with Spanish music blasting from a speaker.

Wilson herself was there to greet the judges and the cafecito tasting commenced in her office with an honorary judge, Florida International University student Carmen Ordonez who is double majoring in international relations and political science.

The cafecito tasting wrapped up at Wilson’s office, but Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz still participated with her statement on the importance of cafecito in South Florida and what her go-to cafecito spot on the hill is.

On 305 Day, FIU in D.C. declared Wilson’s office the champion of what is hoped to be the first of many Congressional Cafecito Challenges.

“I love FIU and I love the 305,” said Wilson — in victory.

Despite each office’s political views, a good cafecito is one thing South Floridians can agree on.

“South Florida has a vibrant coffee culture,” said Charles Cadden, Wasserman Schultz’s legislative correspondent. “We live in such a divided time right now. Coffee is such an awesome way to bring people together no matter their values or their political beliefs.”

Sophia Bolivar is a senior at FIU majoring in digital journalism and focusing her studies on criminal justice. Sharing a love for both writing and photography has led her to pursue a career in journalism.