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Love Hot Drinks? Try This Coffee Drink That’s Traditionally Cooked in a Clay Pot

Café de olla is brimming with flavor and rich Mexican history.

My love for hot coffee knows no bounds. All year long, I drink a latte in the morning and a steaming mug of black coffee in the afternoon. (Iced coffee tends to takes a backseat, which is fine by me; chilled java drinks get watery if they sit out too long anyway.) My devotion to hot coffee often pushes me to explore new and exciting preparation methods beyond my usual setup. And one adventurous hot drink I recently discovered is café de olla (meaning “coffee from the pot” in Spanish), which completely blew me away. Here’s the scoop on this delicious spiced Mexican coffee drink that’ll warm you from the inside out.

The Early Beginnings of Café de Olla

Steeped in rich flavor and history, café de olla was born from the Mexican Revolution (1910 to 1920). During this time, women soldiers known as adelitas prepared the sweet and spiced drink to keep other soldiers energized all day long. It’s said that café de olla originally contained coffee, chocolate, piloncillo (unrefined whole cane sugar), cloves, and cinnamon. These ingredients were simmered together in a clay pot called an olla de barro. The pot’s porous surface and ability to retain heat imparted the coffee with a nice earthiness before it was strained and served.

Café de olla is still enjoyed today, and you can find many methods of preparing the drink online. Some recipes call for cooking the mixture in an olla for an authentic flavor, while others include orange peel and/or anise for a touch of citrus or extra spice. Upon searching, I found a three-ingredient recipe that was quick to make and meant to be shared. Keep reading to learn how to recreate this drink at home.

How To Make Café de Olla

This Café de Olla recipe from Christina Holmes of SAVEUR only contains coffee, piloncillo (Buy from, $4.29), and cinnamon. So, it’s a blank canvas for adding other ingredients. You can whip up this recipe in an olla that holds 4 cups such as this Olla de Barro Ceramic Pot (Buy from, $50) or any medium-sized pot. Here’s how to make café de olla (in under 15 minutes!):


  • ⅓ cup (2 ½ ounces) piloncillo, or packed dark brown sugar as a substitute
  • ¼ cup (¾ ounce) dark-roasted coffee, medium ground
  • 1 small stick cinnamon (preferably canela or Mexican cinnamon)


  • Prep: 3 mins
  • Cook: 10 mins 
  • Total time: 13 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings 
  1. In small olla or medium pot, add 4 cups cold water and piloncillo (or brown sugar), coffee, and cinnamon. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring until piloncillo dissolves. Bring to boil, then remove from heat and let steep 5 minutes.
  2. Set fine mesh strainer or coffee filter over pitcher and strain coffee. Pour into mugs, and serve hot.

My Taste Test

I cooked this drink in a standard pot, but used piloncillo and canela in the mixture. From the first sip, I could taste the piloncillo’s sugar and molasses flavor — which complemented the cinnamon’s warming spiced taste — and the ground coffee added nutty and chocolatey notes to the drink.

At its core, café de olla is simple to make and looks like regular black coffee. But the taste is worth the extra effort — this is a drink that’s bold yet sweet. Next time, I’ll try using an olla and orange peel for a citrusy zing. Here’s to many more cups of hot coffee that I’ll drink regardless of the warming weather!

My test of cafe de olla
Alexandria Brooks
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