How to Brew

Café de Olla

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If you’ve ever wandered into a coffee shop in a small town in Mexico, you’ve probably smelled the cinnamon-spiced aroma of a traditional Mexican coffee drink. Or maybe you just wandered down the ethnic food aisle at your local supermarket and wondered what that weird brown cone is for. 

Cafe de olla is a coffee drink full of warm spices and caramel notes that aren’t found anywhere else in the world. If you’re looking to expand your coffee comprehension, keep reading to learn all about this incredible traditional drink that is making its way into modern coffee culture.

Café de Olla

What is Café de Olla?

Cafe de olla is a warm and spicy traditional Mexican drink. The name translates literally to “coffee from a pot” or “pot coffee.” This delicious Mexican coffee combines coffee grounds, Mexican cinnamon sticks, spices, and Mexican cane sugar. 

The unique, almost molasses-like flavor comes from a real cinnamon stick, cloves, and star anise pods, sweetened with several tablespoons of piloncillo or cane sugar.

Traditional Cafe de olla is brewed in a Mexican clay pot, called an olla de barro. This drink gets its earthy flavor from the porous quality of the clay pot.

Of course, you don’t have to own a traditional olla to make this Mexican coffee. Many cafe de olla recipes use a saucepan! 

The Origins of Cafe de Olla

According to a Mexican coffee roaster and researcher, cafe de olla may have come from the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Revolutionary women, called adelitas, prepared sweetened, spiced coffee for soldiers in the camps. The caffeine boost kept them alert, and the hot coffee was perfect for cold nights.

A Traditional Mexican Drink

Traditionally, this warming drink would be brewed in a clay pot for hours over medium heat, with all the ingredients thrown inside. First, the regular cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, and sugar combine in boiling water before the ground coffee joins them.

Some choose to wrap the ground coffee, Mexican cinnamon sticks, and spices in a cloth to brew, letting that amazing flavor steep into the water. Others add orange peels or aniseed to the brew.

The unique flavor of this drink comes from the piloncillo.

What is Piloncillo?

Piloncillo, sometimes called panela, chancaca, or rapadura, is a lump of unrefined cane sugar made from the evaporation of sugarcane juice. They usually come molded into a cone or stick and have a delicious burnt caramel flavor. 

Though piloncillo is sometimes referred to as brown sugar cones, it does not contain the molasses used to flavor standard brown sugar.

Piloncillo is often used in Mexican cuisine to sweeten drinks and desserts. However, if you’re looking to avoid high-sugar drinks, piloncillo does contain the same amount of sugars as other natural sweeteners.

Where to get Cafe de Olla

You always have the option of traveling to Mexico and finding a blue clay pot simmering on the stove in someone’s home. But it isn’t very convenient when you’re craving a cup of coffee with breakfast.

Fortunately, it’s a popular flavor!

Nescafe with Cafe de Olla

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This cinnamon-flavored instant coffee by Nescafe will transport you to your abuelita’s house in Mexico. This dark-roasted coffee contains the amazing flavor of caramelized sugar with a taste of cinnamon, perfect for any time of day.

La Monarca Bakery Cafe de Olla

Inside this simple brown bag, you’ll find chunks of cinnamon sticks and brown sugar blended with organic, fair-trade coffee beans. La Monarca Bakery has created this spiced blend to enjoy every morning.

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Of course, brewing your own cafe de olla with a traditional recipe is perhaps the best option of all.

How to Make Cafe de Olla

If you’ve ever made pour-over coffee or cold brew coffee, you’ll find the recipe for cafe de olla isn’t much more complicated to make. With a few simple ingredients, you’ll be enjoying the unique flavor in no time.

What You’ll Need

  • 8 cups of water
  • 8 tablespoons of ground coffee
  • 2-3 Cinnamon sticks
  • 2-3 star anise
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 4 ounces piloncillo or brown sugar
  • cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer
  • a traditional clay pot or a saucepan

Step One

Start by adding the piloncillo, spices, and water to a medium saucepan or clay pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. This will create a spicy, fragrant tea that is almost good enough to drink without the coffee!

Step Two

Stir in the tablespoons of coffee grounds and cover. Let this mixture steep for at least five minutes.

Step Three

After the coffee brews, strain the coffee through cheesecloth or a strainer directly into a Mexican clay mug and enjoy.

If you don’t own traditional clay mugs, any cup will do. It’s that simple!

Other Ways to Enjoy Cafe de Olla

There are plenty of ways to enjoy the fantastic flavor of this delicious Mexican coffee beverage.

Cold Brew Cafe de Olla 

Sometimes a hot spiced drink isn’t the best choice all year long. So, if you’re an iced coffee person, try this cold brew option!

After boiling the spices in water, let your mixture cool and steep it overnight in the fridge with the coffee. This process will create a smooth and flavorful Cafe de Olla Cold Brew that you can enjoy in the summer, by the pool, or anytime at all.

Cafe de Olla with Alcohol

If you’re looking to end your day with an alcoholic coffee drink, the cinnamon-spiced flavors of cafe de olla pair with many spirits, including Kahlua! You can serve this as a hot drink with aguardiente (alcoholic spirits) or as a cold cocktail.

Campfire Cafe

This drink is so easy to make that you can take the ingredients when you go camping and cook it over an open fire. The dark caramelized flavors pair perfectly with campfires and s’mores.

Sugar-Free Cafe

For calorie-conscious coffee drinkers, brew the cafe without the piloncillo and add some sugar-free caramel syrup at the end. The resulting sweet coffee beverage is almost as delicious with none of the guilt.

Cafe de Olla? Oh yes!

This traditional Mexican beverage blends warm cinnamon and spices with a unique Mexican sugar and, of course, coffee. This traditional coffee beverage is typically brewed in a porous blue pot over an open flame, but feel free to throw it on the stovetop. You won’t have to travel the world to enjoy this traditional Mexican coffee.

Café de Olla

Café de Olla

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Cafe de olla is a warm and spicy traditional Mexican drink. This delicious Mexican coffee combines coffee grounds, Mexican cinnamon sticks, spices, and Mexican cane sugar. 

Ingredients

  • 8 cups of water
  • 8 tablespoons of ground coffee
  • 2-3 Cinnamon sticks
  • 2-3 star anise
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 4 ounces piloncillo or brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Start by adding the piloncillo, spices, and water to a medium saucepan or clay pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Stir in the tablespoons of coffee grounds and cover. Let this mixture steep for at least five minutes.
  3. After the coffee brews, strain the coffee through a cheesecloth or a strainer directly into a Mexican clay mug and enjoy.

Happy Caffeinating!

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