FLORIDA KEYS EATS: CUPACABANA BRINGS THE CAFFEINE AND FALL FLAVORS TO KEY LARGO

Key Largo’s Cupacabana offers options such as the churro latte. SAMANTHA DELLILO/Keys Weekly

Have you noticed people all around town doing the Cha-Cha with a little pink cup in their hand? That’s because the Upper Keys has been taken over by the Cupacabana in Key Largo. 

Since opening in September, this little coffee truck has everyone in love. The owner’s name isn’t Lola, but it is Luana Peixoto, and although she will serve you with a smile, don’t expect yellow feathers in her hair. 

Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the cheesy Copacabana/Barry Manilow puns. Now listen, as basic as this sounds, I love Starbucks. But everything Starbucks does, the Cupacabana has managed to do better. I first started out trying their simple cold brew – no flavors, just the real deal. Not only did it have a deep roasted flavor, but the way it made me feel was “wow.” I have an odd relationship with caffeine. A lot of caffeinated drinks give me the jitters, but occasionally I’ll come across just the right brew that makes me feel like I could conquer the world with no bad caffeine side effects. 

Cupacabana’s combination of coffee beans, water and flavoring all hits me just right. Don’t feel like you have to give up the fun fall flavors by skimping on the corporate coffee houses. The Cupacabana has pumpkin lattes, pumpkin cold brews and even caramel apple, all for fall. They have an assortment of year-round flavor options like lavender, classic vanilla and hazelnut, among others. 

Coffee not your thing? They are not lacking in the tea selections. You’ll find everything from Earl Grey tea fit for the queen herself all the way to mango and cardamom. As I stopped people around town to ask what their drink of choice was in their blush-colored cups, the majority answer was either the churro latte or the iced churro latte. This bundle of flavor is made with espresso, cinnamon syrup, cinnamon sugar and doce de leite sauce, which is similar to dulce de leche caramel sauce that we all know and love in south Florida. This can be served hot or cold. 

Visiting this pink oasis of happiness made me realize why in such a short amount of time they’ve managed to already have “regulars” and land themselves in the Best of Upper Keys for best coffee. They plan on adding mobile ordering in the future for those in a hurry, but I think I will always be a walk-up order. Everything about my visit was so peaceful and pleasant. Peixoto has found her passion and knows her stuff. This isn’t a place you’ll find the owner saying “eXpresso” at all. They’re the real authentic deal. As long as they’re serving, I’ll be buying.

Samantha Dellilo has been in the Keys since she was 1 day old, so definitely consider her a Conch. Holding a passion for food since she can remember, while most kids were watching Barney, she was watching Emeril. "Being half Cuban and half Italian, food in those cultures is considered a love language. It's a total experience whether eating out or cooking." She's been with her other half, Marky, going on 17 years. The two met when they were 9 years old at Key Largo School. Samantha owns Florida Keys Eats, which is a blog of "must eat, must see, and must dos" from Key Largo to Key West.