Cafe de Olla: Unplugged Coffee, Mexican Style

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With the current overabundance of boutique coffee shops in the Valley serving small-batch. single-source coffee -- each high-end bag listing the name of the farmer, roaster, packager, graphic designer, delivery driver, etc. -- poured steaming hot or cold in a variety of creative and highly decorated coffee drinks, it comes as no surprise that the flavorful and sweet café de olla continues to be completely shut out of American coffee cups. Take advice in coffee drinks from a country that highly favors instant coffee? Never!

It may be time to change that.

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If the brewing process involved an elaborate brewing contraption and two days of brewing time this tasty coffee drink would be the latest rage, baristas would beat down upon a Mexican granny's door demanding the secrets of it's spiced goodness, instantly bringing it to the coffee guzzling masses. Up until the ease and affordability of instant coffee reduced the need for home roasting of coffee (talk about small batch), café de olla was the coffee of Mexico, and don't underestimate the appeal of a sexy, curvy glazed clay pot easily found at Pro's Ranch Market, or its ability to take even the lowest of coffee beans beans to spiced perfection.

Head to the Mexican grocery store, and get the hammer out, you're going to need it. Pick your pot and use it for nothing but coffee because that clay will eventually ooze out sweet, dark nectar of the gods out of its very pores. Breakable, and we're using specific brewing equipment? The humble café de olla may be craft coffee after all. Café de Olla

1 quart water 8 tablespoons of very coarsely ground coffee 1 piloncillo cone or 4 tablespoons dark brown sugar 1 2-inch stick of cinnamon 1 strip of orange zest 1 clove (optional) Clay pot (interior glazed and lead free) A hammer (seriously) Fine mesh strainer

Piloncillo is an unrefined cane sugar cone, varying from light brown to a dark right mahogany shade. Its flavor is richer than that of brown sugar, with a slight caramel and nutty taste. The only way to get a purer form of cane sugar is to suck it out of the cane yourself.

Get a firm grip on that hammer and bash that piloncillo into pieces because you only need about a quarter of it (50 grams or so), or skip the hammering fun and use brown sugar. Place the water, piloncillo or brown sugar, broken up cinnamon stick and clove in the pot and turn the heat to low. Gradually bring the heat up to bring the water to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. The clay pot may make a whistling noise; this is okay, it's just happy to make your coffee. When the spice infusion has come to a boil, add the ground coffee and orange zest, stir, and remove from heat. Allow to rest for three to five minutes, strain and serve.

As proprietor of Muñeca Mexicana handcrafted food, Minerva Orduno Rincon makes everything from mole poblano to goat milk caramel to spiced (not spicy) cocoa. Find her at a farmers market near you.

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