Friday, November 19, 2010

Cafe de Olla - One of my Favorites!

A Typical Clay Pot with Hot Coffee
It's been too long since I've written about coffee.  One of my favorite types of coffee anywhere is the Mexican "Cafe de Olla."  It's a strong, dark and delicious kind of coffee that is very traditional in Mexico.  These are the ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cinnamon Stick (ground cinnamon doesn't work as well)
  • "Piloncillo" - this is a hard cone of raw sugar (see picture); in it's absence you can replace this with about 1/2 cup of raw sugar
  • 4 liters of water
  • 10 tablespoons of ground coffee; I've usually seen that they use a dark roast, medium grind; but I've also made it with fine grind
  • A clay pot, if available - see picture. (If not, any pot will do; the word "olla," actually refers to the fact that it's made in a pot rather than a coffee maker)
             (These are the quantities I use; they can be reduced, or adjusted to taste, but if you're using the piloncillo, it's really hard to cut.)

"Piloncillo," Cones of Raw Sugar
  • Place the cinnamon stick (broken up into pieces) and the piloncillo or raw sugar in the pot of cold water.
  • Bring the water to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar is entirely dissolved. (At this point your kitchen will have a wonderful cinnamon aroma, and in fact it could be drunk this way as a cinnamon tea!)
  • Add the coffee while the water is still boiling, and turn off immediately, covering with a lid.
  • Let the coffee "brew" for a about 4-5 minutes, or until the coffee settles to the bottom. I've found that stirring it once after about 3 minutes, and leaving for a few minutes more helps it settle.  After the grounds settle, DO NOT STIR IT. You want to make sure the grounds and the cinnamon stay at the bottom.
  • Served with a ladle as soon as the grounds settle, being sure to scoop out only the liquid, not disturbing grounds from the bottom.  (Of course, you'll probably get a ground or two in the coffee, but if you're careful, this can be pretty much nothing.)

Traditionally, it's served in little clay cups, which are very typical in rural areas in central Mexico (see picture.)
A traditional clay cup.

Although it breaks one of the basic rules of coffee, that water shouldn't be exposed to grounds for more than 4 or 5 minutes, it's a very delicious kind of coffee!  Every rule has at least one exception; Greek and Arabic coffee likewise break this rule.  Some people also add cloves, I guess along with the cinnamon and sugar at the beginning.

Give it a try at home. If you like coffee, I'm sure you'll like this variation.

Tomorrow, or another day, I'll write about the places where I first tried "cafe de olla."

1 comment:

  1. I have poured the coffee through a small strainer to eliminate any bits or pieces from making their way in. Just a tip. GREAT article with pics and all!