Café de Olla
We love this time of year in Puerto Vallarta for so many reasons. The pageantry, the fiestas and the food are wonderful. One of our favorite pastimes is wandering down the Malecón in the evening. During the twelve days of Our Virgin of Guadalupe, we always stroll with a café de olla in hand. The purpose of this is not just meant to warm the fingers in the chill of the December evening (yes, it does get cool, especially with the ocean breeze.) We anticipate sharing this drink and during this period of time there are many free-standing carts where one can wait in line and be wooed by the seasonal scents. Café de olla is flavored with cinnamon (canela in Spanish) and piloncillo or panela, which is unrefined whole cane sugar, a solid form of sweetness, made from boiling and evaporating the juice from sugarcane. You’ve seen these cone shaped brown chunks in just about any store that sells food in Puerto Vallarta.
Café de olla is the traditional coffee drink of Mexico. It should be served in a clay mug, the type sold in souvenir stores in Puerto Vallarta in 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 with hot liquid, but it’s doubtful vendors can keep up with the demand. These days it’s served in the ubiquitous Styrofoam cup.
The streets of Puerto Vallarta at Christmastime offer so many tasty treats but we can’t recommend café de olla enough. 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 more care; perhaps it’s the blessings of the season.
Quite often the main ingredient in café de olla we buy on the street is Nescafe and Mexicans 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. Sometimes we 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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Thanks to our Guest Blogger Adam Garcia for this great article! (Opinions expressed are his own…)
About Vacation Villas of Mexico Founder, Vanessa Cole
The founder of the company, Vanessa Cole, lived in Puerto Vallarta for 10 years and in Cancun for 2 years. She has worked in Luxury Vacation Villa Rentals since 2001.
Originally from San Antonio, Texas, Vanessa earned a degree from the University of Texas in Austin, majoring in International Business and Latin American Studies. Fluent in Spanish, she has worked and traveled all over Mexico and South America.