Iced Mexican Coffee with Kahúla {Café de Olla}

Mexican "Café de Olla" is the basis for this iced coffee cocktail recipe with Kahúla served in pretty copper mugs.

Let's start at the beginning.

Hello, my name is Ani and I'm a coffee addict. 

I mean, like seriously, I drink coffee more than any other liquid. Iced coffee. Hot coffee. Black coffee. Coffee with cream. Espresso. Lattes. I could go on.

How addicted am I? 

I own two Keurigs and a KitchenAid Pro Espresso Maker with dual thermostats so I can steam the milk and pull the espresso shots without having to wait for the thermostat to come down in temp. I have three different sized French presses (single, 4-cup, 8-cup) and I own 3-cup and 9-cup Bialetti Moka Pots. Each has their own distinct-tasting results. I use the Keurig when I'm lazy and want coffee now; the others when I have time to enjoy the ritual. 

Today, we're making coffee using none of these brewers. Nope. We're going old school with café de olla. Café translates to "coffee" and de olla translates to "from cooking pot." We're going to be cooking the coffee on the stovetop in a regular sauce pan very similar to how Turkish coffee is made only with some spices thrown in. It's a pretty traditional way of making coffee in many Mexican households. And I think it's pretty delicious. Hot or cold.

We're going cold today.

And it's adults only with a healthy splash of Kahlua. 

Plus we're dressing it up by using these gorgeous hand-hammered copper mugs. 

Copper mugs: More than just for Moscow Mules
Besides being a coffee addict, I'm also a bit of prop addict. I love serving things in pretty vessels. I learned early on as a creative person that presentation was half the experience. So when Jessica from Moscow Muled contacted me and asked if I wanted to give their copper mugs a whirl, a part of me did a little dance. The other part of me hesitated a bit. Blech! on ginger beer. Unless it's wine, I'm not that big on fermented drinks. I get more excited about margaritas and cosmos and even a little Maker's Mark with Coke once in a while.

But the mugs! Uh! They're gorgeous. So before I answered her, I checked out their website. Much to my delight, they say they're not just for serving Moscow mules. "Enjoy your favorite beverage" – the site said – hot or cold. Uh, now we're talking!

I proposed an adult iced coffee and Jessica was like, "sure!"

And that's how we arrived here today. 

What makes these mugs special?
You mean, besides being pretty with a sweet-looking handle? Glad you asked. I did, too. 

Many copper mugs on the market fall into two categories: 100% copper with no interior lining or stainless steel mugs with a copper plating on the outside, each has it's issue. 

Did you know that acidic foods and copper simply don't mix? Cooking or drinking acidic foods in unlined or uncoated copper vessels causes a chemical reaction that will cause the copper to leach into the liquid or food. Copper is a heavy metal and though in small doses it has beneficial properties, excess copper can cause heavy metal poisoning which can damage the liver and kidneys. So drinking cocktails from unlined copper can have serious effects on the body.

Copper plated mugs do bypass this issue. However, the problem with many plated mugs is regular cleaning and polishing of the mugs will cause the copper plating to wear out. Then all you have is a steel mug. 

Copper mugs from Moscow Mule are different in that they are made from 100% food-grade copper so the copper will never wear off. And what makes them unique is the nickel lining that prevents copper leaching. When you drink from these mugs, your lip and tongue still makes contact with 100% pure copper which adds to the taste and experience of drinking from a copper mug but you also have the peace of mind that you're not putting your health at risk. 

Ready for some coffee?
I was in my early 20s the first time I had café de olla. One of my roommates at the time was from Mexico City. During the week, she made her coffee with a Moka Pot but come the weekends, this coffee would deliciously scent the entire house. This preparation was unheard of in my family so it was a completely new experience and I loved it. Funny thing is, once I moved out, I'd forgotten all about it until about a year ago when I came upon a video and it struck me that I hadn't made this coffee since I moved out more than 25 years ago.

On the left, Mexican cinnamon (Ceylon cinnamon) and on the right, a cassia stick. I added a penny for size reference.

Cinnamon always makes an appearance but not just any cinnamon. It has to be Mexican cinnamon. Yes, there is a difference in cinnamon. Most cinnamon sold in the U.S. and Canada is of the cassia variety. It has a deep reddish brown color and is made from a single piece of hard bark harvested from the cassia cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum cassia, grown in China). It's flavor is a bit brash and spicy sweet with a mild scent. According to HealthLine, of the two varieties, cassia cinnamon is considered the cheaper, slightly inferior one. It also, if consumed in large doses, can be toxic as it contains coumarin – a naturally occurring compound found to cause liver and kidney damage in some sensitive individuals (so beware those of you who eat large amounts of this to control blood sugar). If you're buying your cinnamon in a U.S. grocery store, this is the cinnamon you're getting. 

Mexican cinnamon, on the other hand, is harvested by rolling several thin, delicate sheets of bark from the interior of the Ceylon cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum verum, grown in Sri Lanka) resulting in a light tan color. Ceylon is often referred to as "true cinnamon." It has a sweet, floral aroma and compared with cassia cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon sticks have a negligible amount of coumarin (according to Science Daily, cassia powder has 63 times more of it than Ceylon powder while cassia sticks have 18 times more of it over Ceylon sticks). If your local store only sells the small deep red cassia variety and you're game to try Ceylon, it's available online at and Amazon.

The other unique ingredient is piloncillo (as it's known in Mexico; also called panela in Central and South American countries). It's unrefined brown cane sugar. It has a rich molasses flavor. Again, available online. Locally, you can purchase both the cinnamon and the piloncillo at Northgate Market and at smaller, neighborhood Mexican markets.

Along with the cinnamon and piloncillo, you'll need, of course, ground coffee. There's a debate about the grind. Some argue for coarse ground, others for fine. All do agree, a rich Mexican coffee is best. I used Café Bustelo Espresso Ground Coffee. It isn't super fine/powdery but it is fine and I like it with this preparation. We'll also need 2-3 whole cloves, one star anise and a few 2-inch long strips of orange zest. The orange zest is easy to get using a potato peeler. The potato peeler allows for a thin strip, avoiding the bitter pith (the thick white layer between the oil-infused skin and the fruit itself). 

The spices and the orange zest go into large sauce pan with 6 1/4 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil then turn down to a simmer and cook for five minutes. Add the sugar, bring to a second boil then lower to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Then we add 6 generous tablespoons of coffee to the sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn off heat, cover and let steep for five minutes.

Then the coffee needs to be strained through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth (or a large coffee filter, though that's MUCH slower). Allow the coffee to cool then it's ready to shake up with ice and Kahúla. Any extra coffee can be placed in a pitcher and left in the refrigerator for up to about 5 days to be enjoyed with or without alcohol. 

Whether drinking this hot or cold in your pretty copper mugs, this spiced up coffee might just become your next obsession.

Until next time … xo, ani

Café de Olla (Mexican-Spiced Coffee)

I used two Mexican cinnamon sticks because I love the flavor but I've seen this amount of water made with only one stick. If you're a cinnamon lover like me, stick with two, otherwise, feel free to use just one. If you're using cassia, 1 stick should probably be fine as I find two of the more astringent cassia sticks to be a bit sharp. 

Makes 6 servings

6½ cups water
1-2 Mexican (Ceylon) cinnamon sticks (or 1 cassia)
3 whole cloves
1 star anise
3 2-inch strips of thin, skin only orange peel (no white pith)
1 8-ounce cone of piloncillo or 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
6 generous tablespoons of your favorite dark ground coffee

potato peeler (for removing orange zest)
large sauce pan
measuring spoons
fine mesh strainer

Bring the water, spices and orange peel to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for five minutes. Add the piloncillo, bring to a boil, reduce heat and stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Add the coffee, bring to a boil, cover and turn off heat. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. Line a fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth and strain the coffee into individual mugs if drinking as is or into a large pitcher if proceeding with the cocktail recipe.

Iced Mexican-Spiced Coffee with Kahúla
Makes 1 serving

6 ounces café de olla (see coffee recipe above)
1½ -2 ounces Kahúla, depending on your preferred strength
curls of orange zest, for garnish, optional

cocktail shaker
copper mugs

Add ice to a copper mug; set aside. Fill the shaker halfway with ice. Add the coffee and Kahúla. Shake well. Pour into the mug. Garnish with orange curl. 

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FTC Disclaimer: Moscow Muled provided me 2 copper mugs for my review. As always, recipe, photos and opinions are my own. I only share reviews of products I love and think my readers will, too. Moscow Muled logo, copyright