I am obsessed with the power of smells. Aromas can take your mind to a completely different place and time than the present.
The smell of coffee in the mornings always brings me back to my grandmother’s kitchen in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. On the corner of the red wooden table, she had a grinder, and every time we went to visit, she would ask my brothers and me to help her grind coffee she had harvested and roasted.
The aroma of fresh coffee brings me back home and reminds me how blessed I am for being able to have a routine, and makes me thankful for waking up one more day.
Another strong aroma that makes my senses go wild is the smell of the traditional Mexican coffee called “Café de olla,” also known as “Pot Mexican coffee,” or “Mexican spiced coffee.”
Café de olla is the type of coffee you’ll find in almost every home in each state of Mexico, from the small villages to the big cities. The smell of the coffee, the smokiness of the cane sugar and the spiciness of the cinnamon make the perfect harmony to start the day, or pause in the afternoon to enjoy.
As we start a new year, full of new opportunities, I wanted to share my recipe for Café de olla, to bring new aromas to your kitchen, reviving old traditions and starting new ones.
I hope you enjoy it and have a happy new year!
Café de olla
(3 cups of coffee)
Ideally this coffee would be made in a clay pot, but if you don’t have one, don’t worry, it can still be made in a regular pot.
3 1/4 cups of water (approximately a cup of water per cup of coffee)
1 1/2 sticks of cinnamon
1/4 cup (about 3.5 oz) of piloncillo/panela (sugar cane block)
6 tsp of ground coffee (I usually calculate 2 tsp of ground coffee per cup)
- In a medium pot on medium heat, add water, cinnamon sticks and piloncillo. When the water starts boiling, add the coffee and stir for about a minute and turn off the heat. Don’t let the coffee boil too long to avoid a bitter/burned flavor.
- Cover the pot with a lid for about 5 minutes. This step will help the flavors combine perfectly.
- Taste and adjust: if you wanted it sweeter, add a little bit more piloncillo; if you want it less sweet, add a little bit more water; or if it needs more coffee, make a little more and add it to the mix.
- Use a strainer to serve coffee into the cups.
Make it without boiling in a pot:
When making your regular coffee, add a cinnamon stick to your cup and use piloncillo rather than sugar. By the way, piloncillo is healthier than white refined sugar.
To use pilocillo, grate a little bit of the block and stir into your coffee with the cinnamon stick. The longer you leave the stick the more cinnamon flavor it will get.
Water: I calculate about 1 cup of water per person and add a little more, considering evaporation and because sometimes the coffee that I use is strong. Check the water and taste - this is truly the best way to adjust the recipe to the flavor you like.
Piloncillo/Panela: If you can’t find it in your local supermarket, local farmer’s markets may have it, or you’ll be sure to find it in your local Hispanic or Asian stores (ask for sugar cane block).
Coffee: I usually calculate 2 tsp of ground coffee per cup. But when it comes to coffee it depends on how strong or weak you like it. I recommend adjusting the amount of coffee to what you would normally add to your regular coffee.