From my vantage point on Cafe de Maria's outdoor terrace, I'm struck by the undulating slopes below me coated in foliage. Here, in the petite community of Las Terrazas, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that was founded on a green ethic, my intention was to meditate on nature while sipping perhaps the best coffee in Cuba. But I'm distracted from my musings by my cappuccino that arrives with the cocoa-sprinkled visage of Che Guevara staring at me. Serving a dozen different coffee beverages, Cafe de Maria is hailed for its signature iced drink – Las Terrazas is made by blending espresso with milk, chocolate syrup, coffee liqueur and ice – that's particularly appealing on this humid day. But Che only makes an appearance atop a foamy cappuccino, making my coffee the focus of every tourist's digital camera within reach on this terrace.
Despite this photo frenzy, Las Terrazas, that's home to just over 1,000 residents, is the hallmark of tranquility and sustainability. The self-contained community is surrounded by foliage thick with indigenous species, including hibiscus, teak and ebony, trees that were part of the reforestation project that gave birth to Las Terrazas. With such a respect for nature, no wonder Hotel Moka was constructed without chopping down a single tree. Even the lobby was built around a towering lime tree. The veggie restaurant, El Romero, sources its honey from the local bee hives and the fruits, including guava and sour orange, from the nearby mountain orchards.
© 2013 AFAR Media