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305 in the 202: FIU brews up the Congressional Cafecito Challenge

305 in the 202: FIU brews up the Congressional Cafecito Challenge

March 5, 2024 at 3:05pm

FIU’s center in the nation’s capital is known for informing high-level leaders about the university’s impact on national and international issues. Already this year, it has trained a spotlight on key research and initiatives by hosting gatherings of renowned experts around population health and the South Florida Climate Tech Hub.

More recently, FIU in DC reminded those who inhabit the halls of power that South Florida also reigns supreme in matters of the coffee break when it addressed a question percolating within the congressional delegation that continually delivers big wins for FIU students and researchers.

It all started in October with a bold, unfiltered tweet from Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-24): “My office makes the best cafecito on Capitol Hill.”

Them was fightin’ words to folks who know their Cuban-style java, including Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-26), Congressman Carlos A. Gimenez (R-28) and Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar (R-27), all of whom responded with statements of their own.

FIU invited the staffs of the four to set up moka pots and put their best barista to the test. People whose busy lives presumably require strong caffeination were pressed into service as judges: former Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen ’75, Miami-Dade Director of Federal Affairs Phillip Drujak, Executive Director of The Florida House on Capitol Hill Diana Beckmann and FIU double-major in international relations and political science Carmen Ordoñez.

Each of the competitors got a robust nod. Diaz-Balart’s office scored points for its ceramic serving cups emblazoned with the phrase “Patria y Vida.” Gimenez’s office earned kudos for using the “authentic” mini shot cups. Salazar’s team demonstrated “a lot of force” in its hand-mixing technique, and Wilson’s staff secured good reviews for its addition of pastelitos, croquetas and blaring Spanish music.

“South Florida has a vibrant coffee culture,” summed up Charles Cadden, legislative correspondent for Congresswoman Deborah Wasserman Schultz (D-25), who himself threw support to team Diaz-Balart for an invigorating signature blend he has enjoyed on more than one occasion.

“We live in such a divided time right now,” Cadden added of bitter partisanship that too often sees cooperation grind to a halt, “but coffee is such an awesome way to bring people together, no matter their values or political beliefs.”

Let’s all sip to that.

Editor's note: On 305 Day - March 5 - the winners of the first Congressional Cafecito Challenge were announced. They are as follows:

Authentic Presentation: the Office of Congressman Carlos Gimenez
Azucar! Sweetest Cafecito: the Office of Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar
Best Espumita: the Office of Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart
2024 Overall Award Winner: the Office of Congresswoman Frederica Wilson

Student Sophia Bolivar contributed to this story.