As part of Indigenous Peoples month, Granito Coffee is celebrating Café de Olla, a coffee that fueled an indigenous and campesino revolution in Mexico.
Café de Olla literally means “coffee made in a pot” because, yeah, you guessed it, it’s made in a clay pot. But this is no ordinary pot coffee. The clay pot imparts a distinctive flavour on the brew which can then be infused with cinnamon, piloncillo (an unrefined cane sugar with molasses left in it), cloves and even chocolate, giving it a rich texture and delicious flavour.
Café De Olla is also steeped in Mexican history. Long before Europeans brought coffee to Mexico (and Guatemala), indigenous people had been drinking atole and pinole — beverages made with corn, vitamin-rich cacao, and flavoured with honey, vanilla, nutmeg, and chili. They were consumed for centuries before the arrival of settlers.
Coffee only came to Mexico in the 18th century from what is now Cuba and Dominican Republic. Soon after, French and German immigrants began to set up plantations in Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Veracruz but it wasn’t until the early 20th century that Café de Olla was born.
In the early days of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20), women members of the Zapatista forces known as soldaderas or adelitas, brought the traditional recipe to their camps. For more info about the important role played by Mexicos Soldaderas, check out Mexico’s Nobodies: The Cultural Legacy of the Soldadera and Afro-Mexican Women by Christine Arce.
The special brew boosted morale with a potent reminder of home and fueled soldiers with lots of energy and caffeine. The unrefined cane sugar with molasses also contained enzymes that could soothe the stomach and the vitamin-rich cacao made Café De Olla a revolutionary “super food”.
Café De Olla was even said to be a favourite of Emiliano Zapata, the leading figure of the Mexican Revolution who would become the namesake for subsequent uprisings in the Chiapas, an area known for both its cafetaleras (coffee farms) and indigenous struggles for autonomy that continue to this day. If you want to read more about the Zapatista Rebellions checkout, A Spark of Hope: The Ongoing Lessons of the Zapatista Revolution 25 Years On.
Today Café de Olla is super popular in Mexico, sometimes it’s even referred to as Café Mexicano, and demand for it is growing in the US and Canada too. For some, it’s a nostalgic taste of home. For others, it’s just a great way to start the day. Either way, this revolutionary coffee is definitely worth a try.
Here are two quick recipes you can try at home with or without a clay pot.
- 4 metric cups water (1000ml)
- 85g (3oz) or about ⅓ of a cup Piloncillo/Panela or dark brown sugar
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 2-3 cloves
- 1 pinch of anise seeds
- 1 orange peel (optional)
- 55g (2oz) or 12 Tbsp. of coarsely-ground Coffee. In the spirit of Café de Olla, we recommend Café Santa Anita.
*For the chocolate version add 100g (3.5oz) of semisweet chocolate.
- Combine water, sugar, cinnamon, orange peel, cloves, and anise in a pot.
- Stir while bringing mixture to a boil and then turn heat down to medium-low. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add the coffee. Cover the pot and allow the mixture to steep for 5 minutes.
- Strain with a fine mesh strainer (or line a large-hole strainer with coffee filters or paper towel.)
*For the chocolate version
- Return the coffee to the pot. *You may need to rinse the pot first.
- On low heat, add the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is fully dissolved (3-5min)
- Serve with a cinnamon stick.