Café de olla can be made in saucepans, french presses & other pots but it is most definitely at it’s best when made in a clay pot called an “olla de barro“. These clay pots (like the one pictured above) are tan in color & tend to have a distinct smell to them that I can only describe as “earthy”. The very thing that gives the pot that earthy smell is also what imparts a unique flavor into the coffee, giving it a “homemade” taste. These pots can also be used to cook a variety of foods that require slow cooking over low heat like stews (guisados) & beans.
Happy Dia de los Muertos!
Happy Day of the Dead! Ok, I’m not just being morbid, there really is something called Day of the Dead.
On November 1st & 2nd of every year in Mexico, other Latin countries as well as the U.S., families & friends gather together to pay their respects to passed loved ones. They dedicate brightly decorated alters full of marigold flowers, sugar skulls, candles, & photos of those that have passed. The idea is that during these two days, the dead come back to the living world & therefore we celebrate them & welcome them home. I think it’s a great way to remember those that we have lost in a celebratory fashion instead of being all sad & weepy about it. Families will often celebrate into the wee hours of the night, praying, telling stories about their loved ones & eating delicious treats & coffee to help keep them awake well into the wee hours of the night.
A type of coffee that is typically consumed on this day is called:
Café de Olla.
Café de olla literally means “Pot Coffee” getting its name from the clay pot (or olla de barro) that it’s traditionally made in.
It wasn’t until two years ago that I heard about & tasted this concoction of spices & coffee for myself. I fell in love with it despite not liking coffee at all. It tasted like someone poured a warm blanket, cinnamon & love into a cup. So of course I set out to learn more about this delicious drink & how I could recreate the love at home. This post is all about what I learned & how you can share the goodness that this simple little drink holds with your own loved ones, both past & present.
A Little Background:
Café de olla is a traditional Mexican style of coffee made in clay pots & flavored with raw cane sugar (called piloncillo in Mexico or panela in other Latin American countries) & spices such as cinnamon & cloves. The coffee beans typically used for this recipe are Viennese-type dark roasted beans. When brewed, the coffee is medium-bodied & has a bit of a kick to it. This kind of coffee gives the café de olla a rich base for the spices to accent upon.
How To Make Café de Olla:
These ollas de barro can be found at Mexican artisan stores, supermarkets or online. I had to go deep into East L.A. to find mine! Make sure they are labeled “lead free” because many of the older pots that used to be sold contained lead in the glaze that is applied to the decoration on the outside of the pot. These pots are a bit tedious to use at first because you have to “cure” them to make sure they do not crack or leak while you are cooking.
I am currently working on writing a separate blog on how I cure my ollas when I first get them but until then, you can google “how to cure an olla de barro”.
YouTube is amazing…
Once you have cured your pot (or in any pot you may have on hand), add the warm water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, & grated/cut up piloncillo together, cover & heat over low heat until the pot becomes very warm to the touch. Once the pot has warmed up, raise the heat to medium-low until all of the sugar has dissolved.
Piloncillo is a type of natural brown cane sugar that comes from boiling & evaporating sugarcane juice. It is often cone-shaped & wrapped in plastic shrink-wrap. You can find these “sugar cones” in any supermarket, flea market or specialty store that sells Latin American goods. If you can not find piloncillo, you may also use dark brown sugar in a pinch 🙂
Once all of the sugar has dissolved, turn off heat. Grind whole coffee beans coarsely & add coffee grinds to the pot. Cover & allow coffee to steep for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice.
When ready to serve, strain coffee through a fine mesh strainer to remove cinnamon, cloves, & any grinds. Some people like to use a coffee filter to strain the coffee but I don’t think it’s necessary. It’s no different than drinking coffee from a french press!
I like to serve my coffee straight with no milk or creamer. It’s so good on its own, that I think that creamer would alter the taste. I like to pour it into similar-style clay mugs…
it really doesn’t change the flavor of the coffee but it sure does look pretty 🙂
* If making this recipe with a french press, add spices & sugar to water while it boils. Strain out spices & pour water over coarse coffee grinds & allow to steep as usual.
Press down strainer & enjoy!