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The Story of Café Pilon®

The origins of Café Pilon can be traced back to 19th century Cuba, where it has been brewed and served with pride for more than 100 years. Coffee was simply coffee during that period of time; there were few brands, and customer relationships were built on a very personal and word-of-mouth level. But, as the years went by and brand names became increasingly important, Café Pilon boomed, quickly becoming the most popular coffee brand in Cuba.

Fast-forward to 1930s Cuba: Café Souto, a coffee brand owned by Pepe Souto and his family, was gaining recognition in certain regions of the island, but Café Pilon, owned by the Bascuas family, remained the leader all throughout the island. Although the two brands were direct competitors, the families were close friends, both leaving Cuba in the early 1960s in search of new opportunities in Miami. Despite having little money and not speaking the language, Pepe Souto set off to do the one thing he knew how to do best: el café cubano.

Pepe, with the help of his eldest son, convinced a U.S. roaster to roast and pack his formula of Cuban-style coffee, which he then sold door to door with his wife and sons. They gathered lists of names and addresses of potential customers provided by their existing customers in hopes of growing their business, ensuring they could deliver fresh, quality Cuban coffee to clients once a week.

Once the sons were of driving age, each received their own car in order to complete their delivery routes. All throughout high school and college, the young men continued to expand their routes and their father’s business. The Cuban community very much appreciated that Souto could offer a coffee with the same taste of their homeland.

Manuel Bascuas, who had been planning to retire, heard that Pepe Souto was roasting his Cuban-style coffee, and offered Pepe the opportunity to roast his formula in his own roasting plant, Rowland Coffee Roasters. Pepe declined the administrative position, as his dream was to grow his business and family brand, Café Souto.

A few months later, Bascuas sold his business to a group of gentlemen, who had little knowledge of the coffee industry, and in a matter of months, the new owners contacted Souto with an offer to sell him the business and Café Pilon brand. The deal was sealed by 1965, and knowing that Café Pilon was the stronger brand name, Pepe Souto acquired Rowland Coffee Roasters.

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