Friday, October 22, 2010

Coffee, Wonderful Coffee!

Moka Pot
I love coffee; I'm a little picky about coffee styles, but in the absence of my favorite kinds of coffee, I'll drink just about any kind of coffee (with less enjoyment.)  The coffee I like best are dark roasts, brewed strongly.  Now and then I like espresso, but what I drink most often is the strong coffee made in the stove-top coffee makers known as Mokka pots (see the picture.)  For homemade coffee, I also like press coffee makers.  Of course, the standard drip-pot coffee makers do the trick as well.

In Mexico, I've used all three with Mexican coffee.  Mexican coffee suits my tastes really well.  Most that I've tried is dark roast and has a really rich flavor.  Flavors vary from region to region as well - Veracruz and Chiapas are two of my favorites.  On top of being delicious, it's priced really  inexpensive; one reason for this is that it's produced within Mexico, and not very commercialized.  The other reason is that many Mexicans (although definitely not all) have a prejudice against their own domestic produce - an assumption that what's foreign is better.

This is were I enjoyed my morning coffee in Cuernavaca
This attitude led to one of the biggest absurdities I've ever encountered.  When we lived in Cuernavaca, a smaller city just south of Mexico City, my wife's boss would make a cup of coffee for us every morning when we arrived at her work (a historic photo archive). She would brew a wonderful dark roast which she bought in a nearby tourist village called Tepoztlan (where we got married).  The coffee was amazing!   Then one day we arrived to the news that she had bought better coffee. When we tried it, we found it so bitter and harsh, we could hardly finish our cups.  Of course, being polite, we forced it all down. After my wife and I had thrown some concerned looks at each other, she asked her boss about her magical new discovery.  Delighted, excited and proud, she pulled out a large can of Folgers.

FOLGERS!  Can you believe it?  I almost died of shock.  For one thing, I couldn't believe that this was her improvement.  No offense if you drink Folgers, but it just doesn't match up in any way to the small-production Mexican coffees.  If you do make it, you simply cannot make it that strong, it's just too bitter.  Another thing was the horror that if I continued to accept her morning coffees, every morning my expectations of having some of the best coffee I had ever tried, would be disappointed by Folgers.  The morning coffee visits had become a pleasurable part of my daily routine, sitting down in a very relaxing natural setting with my wife, her boss and an expert on colonial churches for some good conversation.  (This was after finishing my morning shift of teaching English classes around 10:30). Later that day my wife, who had investigated this change for the worse in depth, explained that her boss was certain that it was much better coffee; it was from the States.  How couldn't it better?  I lost some faith in humanity at that moment ... (well, OK, not really, but I was disappointed!)  I did keep going for the visits, but I  started "cutting down on caffeine," taking only half a cup.
The Market in Cuernavaca where I used to buy my Coffee

While we lived in Cuernavaca, I bought my coffee in the central market; there was little shop where they received green coffee in big bags from Veracruz.  They roasted the coffee fresh every day, and the aroma near that part of the market was one of my favorite parts of  my weekly shopping trips!  The only other place where I remember the smell of freshly roasted coffee so strong and rich is one corner of Kensington Market in Toronto where there are several roasters.  The shop in Cuernavaca sold various grinds (fine, medium, course) and tones (light, medium, dark.)  I bought the medium grind, dark roast for my moka pot, or fine dark roast for "cafe de olla," a traditional Mexican style of brewing coffee.  It cost about $7/kilo, which converts to about $3/pound.  Virtually the same coffee in Kensington Market, Toronto (also imported green from Veracruz and roasted on site) cost $10/pound.  I don't believe that even a giant can of Folgers in Walmart would cost much less then $7/kilo, and even if it did, it's a price I'd be very willing to pay.

These days I buy little packets of ground coffee from a vendor who has a little stand set up on the back of his pickup near the city's main hospital (a common way of running business in Mexico).  It's good coffee, but I miss the experience of the aroma of roasting coffee.  If anyone ever opens a coffee roasting shop in Playa del Carmen, that person will eternally be my hero.

I could write much more about coffee, or just coffee in Mexico, but I'll have to save those for another day.  In the future you can look forward to a post about "cafe de olla" as well as the home-grown, home-roasted coffee on my wife's grandpa's farm.

What's the best coffee you've ever had?  Just don't say Folgers! (Sorry for picking on Folgers, but that experience in Cuernavaca has left it branded eternally as the coffee I hate.)


  1. I am drinking my morning coffee as i read...and I am drinking NesCafe.
    But for as long as I remember, my dad gets his coffee from Mexico. He drinks the Combate. (i think he still does)
    I agree Mexican coffee is much richer.

  2. For the most part I hate coffee. However, I had a coffee here in Mexico which I´m sure other people are familiar with. I don´t know what it´s called but I will describe it. It is made in a ceramic pot on the stove. You pour in water, coffee grounds, cinnamon, and something I think is called pilloncillo, or something like that. I probably slaughtered that. Whatever it is, it´s like a chunk of dark yellowish brown sugar or something. When the brew is done it is scooped out and put through a strainer into a eramic cup. This assures that there are no coffee grounds, pieces of cinnamon, etc, in your cup. This is about the only mexican coffee experience I can say that I truly enjoyed. If someone knows the name of this, let me know.

  3. Aggie, I've never had "Combate," but I'll look for it to try it. I'm always up for trying new things, especially if it's someone's lifetime favorite!

    Todd, the coffee you mean is "cafe de olla." I really love it too - I didn't mention it here because it will be another post in itself. The "piloncillo" is raw cane sugar shaped in cone. The pot and the cups are made of clay rather than ceramic (just a little point.) I'll write much more about all of this when I write my post about "cafe de olla."

  4. Where is your posting about café de olla?

    1. My post about cafe de olla is here: Cafe de Olla - One of my Favorites! .

      Are you trying to find out how to make cafe de olla?