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Mexican Coffee (Café de Olla)
(adapted from Susana Trilling, Seasons of My Heart) 

La Posada de Chencho is a small family-run inn situated on a tree-lined street in a working class neighborhood in Oaxaca.  The genial Senor Chencho is usually to be found in his office next to the sturdy, metal-clad  front door, ready to explain why fireworks were exploding at dawn or to order a taxi for the Guelaguetza, the city’s celebrated  regional dance festival. 

The posada serves the most delicious breakfasts in the comedor off the flower-filled patio.  They are always accompanied by pots of aromatic café de olla, which is brewed with canela, or Ceylon cinnamon in an earthenware pot.  When we make it at home, we use smooth, chocolaty Oaxaca Pluma coffee beans from La Trinidad coop. 

Makes 1 quart 


1/4 cup piloncillo or brown sugar (see note)
1 piece Ceylon cinnamon, 1-inch long
5 tablespoons finely ground coffee (see note) 


In a medium earthenware pot or saucepan, heat 1 quart of water.  Add the sugar and cinnamon.  Just before the water starts to boil, add the coffee, stir well and simmer for 2 minutes.  Pour the coffee through a fine sieve and serve in earthenware mugs.


1.  Café de olla is traditionally made with piloncillo, raw brown sugar sold in hard cones. Piloncillo may be found in Hispanic markets or in the international section of your grocery store, or it can be ordered from www.mexgrocer.com.

The cones are so hard that they are almost impossible to cut.  To measure 1/4 cup, soften the piloncillo by wrapping it in a damp cloth and placing it in a small paper bag in a 200 degree oven for 20 minutes. It will still be hard, but using a heavy chef’s knife, you can shave off enough sugar for the coffee.  Or take the easy way out and use ordinary brown sugar.

2.  Oaxaca Pluma coffee beans may be ordered from 3 Cups, 431 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516.  Telephone:  919/968-8993.  Web: www.3cups.net.

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