Coffee for a Cold Winter Night
One of our favorite things about the winter holidays in Puerto Vallarta is the availability of the yummy drink café de olla. This delicious coffee beverage can be found year round if you know where to look but around Christmas it’s more abundant on the streets of Puerto Vallarta. We recall warming cold hands around a clay cup, many years ago, standing under the crown of the Church of Guadalupe, discovering a magical flavor to go with other seasonal joys. Café de olla is flavored with cinnamon (canela in Spanish) and piloncillo, which is unrefined whole cane sugar, a solid form of sweetness made from boiling and evaporating the juice from sugarcane. You’ve probably seen the cone-shaped brown chunks in stores in Puerto Vallarta.
Café de olla is a traditional coffee drink of Mexico. Café de olla should be served in a clay mug, the type sold in souvenir stores in Puerto Vallarta. You can find these collections of dishes ranging from large platters to tiny shot-glass sized cups. In the past the mugs were a part of the purchase, brimming withhot liquid, but it’s doubtful vendors can keep up with that kind of demand these days. Now café de olla is served in a disposable cup.
The streets of Puerto Vallarta at Christmastime offer so many tasty treats and we can’t recommend café de olla too much. Though it is served year round in some restaurants, including the one that bears the name, the café de olla we purchase during the holidays seems to be richer, made with the blessings of the season.
Surprising to many, the main ingredient of café de olla is Nescafe; Mexicans know how to make it taste delicious. To make our own version at home in Puerto Vallarta we use the following method: In a saucepan, add a short cup of fresh ground coffee of your choice (the darker, the better) to a quart of hot water; a couple cinnamon sticks (essential ingredient); and the equivalent of half a cup piloncillo (use brown sugar if you’re in the north and have no access to piloncillo; about a third of an orange peel (yes, just the peel). Bring this to a boil. You can also toss in a pinch of nutmeg or cloves. Boil for about a minute, remove from the heat, cover and let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain and serve.
Get some of those beautiful clay mugs; you won’t regret it.
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