These colder months have had me thinking a lot about Mexico, pan dulce, and the delicious smell of coffee that usually pairs perfectly with it. In this reminiscing, I couldn’t help but get inspired and write about one of my greatest pleasures as a Mexicana: Café de Olla.
Mi abuelita used to say that "hasta las almas en pena encuentran un poco de consuelo en una taza de café de olla [even lost souls find a bit of comfort in a cup of Café de Olla]" and I can understand why. With its unmistakable flavor of cinnamon, piloncillo, and spices and the touch of earthy flavors and smells impregnating the room where this drink is prepared, any heart feels comforted.
If you do not know what I mean when I mention this drink, you are really missing out on a true delicacy. Café de Olla is one of those pleasures that one must try at least once in a lifetime. A delight that any Mexican is proud of for its original flavor; it has an aroma that will stop time and make you feel like you are in a little cabin in the middle of the woods, walking in a Pueblo Mágico, or at home sitting at the table with your family.
The name Café de Olla, translated as pot coffee, is a reference to the way it is prepared: because you do not need a fancy coffee machine to prepare it, just a stove and a pot. Traditionally it is made in a clay pot and should be offered in cups or jars made of this same material.
One popular version of the origin of this drink indicates that café de olla originated between 1910 and 1917 during the Mexican Revolution and that it was invented by Adelitas. Being on the road without coffee machines, they mass-prepared this mixture of coffee, cinnamon, and piloncillo by throwing all ingredients into a large clay pot and serving it (and drinking it) every night to give energy to all the revolutionaries.
If you grew up in a Mexican family, it is very likely that the aroma of Café de Olla reminds you of your grandparents’ house, since it is a traditional recipe that has been passed down for generations. Just as it happens to me that just by smelling this coffee, I immediately expect it to be followed by someone telling me, “te sirvo un cafecito? [do you want a cup of coffee?]” as if I were arriving at the house of any of my relatives who want me to sit at the table with them.
The best thing about this coffee is that, as we mentioned, you don’t need a coffee machine to prepare it. You can use any pot and put it on the stove top—everyone I know usually makes it in a (blue) pewter pot, and it does not modify its delicious flavor. It is also fairly easy to make, and the ingredients are usually easy to find. To make sure your flavor is authentic, use Mexican coffee (learn more about what makes Mexican Coffee so special here). My favorite part about this coffee is that you can add or substitute ingredients and measurements to your liking. This is usually one of the reasons why Café de Olla tastes somewhat different depending on who made it, which I think is pretty cool!
If you are at home and need a little break from reality to escape for a few minutes to the place in Mexico that makes you happiest, here is the recipe:
Café De Olla - Mexican Coffee
INGREDIENTS (4 SERVINGS)
- Four Cups of Water
- Four tablespoons of ground coffee, be sure it is not instant coffee.
- A stick of cinnamon
- 3 whole cloves
- Half a cone of piloncillo (60g, you can add more if you like your coffee sweeter or less if you want it to only have that subtle taste). You can use brown sugar if you don’t have piloncillo at hand.
- Other ingredients that can be added to give it a personal touch are: orange zest, a bit of star anise, vanilla, and even a small piece of Mexican chocolate.
1) In a medium pot (clay, preferably) pour the water with the cinnamon, piloncillo, and cloves.
2) Bring to a boil, preferably over medium heat, and cook until the piloncillo has completely dissolved (approximately 5 minutes).
3) Once the piloncillo is dissolved, stir the mixture for 3-5 minutes so that the water is infused with the flavors of the spices.
4) Add ground coffee and mix well to incorporate it into the water.
5) Bring the water back to a boil and turn it off immediately so that the water stops boiling.
6) Cover the pot and let it rest for 5-10 minutes so that the coffee releases all its flavor.
7) Before serving, pass the coffee through a strainer and serve hot.
Tips and tricks:
- Want a smokier flavor? Using your stove or a lighter, gently burn the cinnamon stick on all sides before putting it in the pot.
- Don’t want to strain and don’t mind a few “dusty” sips? Wait a few minutes and allow the coffee to rest at the bottom. That way, you’ll be able to serve only the top portion of the coffee.
- In a rush? You can break down the piloncillo into smaller pieces so that it dissolves faster.
- Piloncillo (some call it panela) can be substituted with any type of sugar, including honey. Just be sure to pick one, stick to it, and compensate the flavor with other spices.
- Of course, you can use decaf coffee and serve it in the evening. In the same way, if you like your coffee stronger, you can always add more coffee.
- Are you in the mood for iced coffee? You can use a French press and reserve it in the fridge. Serve over ice and add a splash of your favorite milk (my favorite summer treat)!
So, what do you think? Have you ever had Café de Olla? I personally always feel it pairs nicely with pan dulce, besitos de nuez, or pumpkin empanadas when serving as sobremesa, or like mi abuela used to serve it with a mollete dulce (half a bolillo with butter and sugar heated in the oven for 2 minutes).
Will you be preparing this recipe any time soon? What other recipes would you like for us to share with you? Let us know what you think in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!
If you are looking for the perfect coffee to make this with, you know that we proudly offer Mexican quality coffee, Café Punta del Cielo. Also, if you’re looking for earthy, Mexican mugs and coffee services, be sure to check out our collection of drinkware!
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