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Cancun Coffee: Popular Mexican Coffee Recipes

Cancun Coffee: Popular Mexican Coffee Recipes - Coffee Life by EspressoWorks

Does social distancing and months on months of being cooped up at home have you urging to scratch the travel bug itch? Go on a mental escape from monotony and travel to the tropical city of Cancun through the magic of some Mexican coffee recipes.

Cancun is not only one of Mexico’s top tourist destinations — but it is also known for delicious Cancun coffee beverages, some alcoholic and some non-alcoholic. The term “Cancun coffee,” however, is really a figure of speech, as traditional Mexican coffee drinks are wildly popular not only in Cancun but all over Mexico — from Mexico City to Acapulco to Guadalajara. Here are the recipes for two Cancun coffee favorites.

Cafe de Olla

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Servings: 5 cups


  • 5 cups, water
  • 5 tablespoons, ground coffee
  • 1 stick, cinnamon (“canela” in Spanish)
  • 3 small brown sugar cones, which are called “piloncillo” or “panela” in Latin America
  • Optional ingredients, if desired: star anise, orange zest, and clove (“cravo” in Spanish)


  1. Place the water, cinnamon, brown sugar cones, and a clove (if desired) in a medium-sized cooking pot — preferably, a traditional Mexican pot made of clay, if available.
  1. Heat these ingredients and bring them to a boil, ideally using medium heat. Make sure the sugar cones have completely dissolved in the mixture. This should take around 5-7 minutes.
  1. Turn the fire off, adding the ground coffee and stirring the mixture thoroughly.
  1. With the fire off, cover the pot and leave it alone for 10 minutes.
  1. Pour the hot cafe de olla through a strainer and serve it.

Facts About Cafe de Olla

In Spanish, the word “olla” means “cooking pot” — and cafe de olla means “coffee of the cooking pot.” That name stems from the fact that this tasty Cancun coffee beverage doesn’t require a coffee maker and is typically prepared in Mexico using a traditional clay cooking pot.

The exact origins of cafe de olla are somewhat of a mystery, but some historians believe that the Cancun coffee favorite started during the Mexican Revolution when Adelitas — Mexican women who participated in that conflict — added brown sugar cones and cinnamon to coffee and served it to the revolucionarios. Adelitas, according to historians, served cafe de olla to the fighters every night to give them energy.


Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes

Servings: 1 cup


  • ½ cup, brewed espresso — either regular or decaffeinated
  • 1 ½ or 2 ounces, Licor 43
  • 8 ice cubes


  1. Place the ice cubes in a “lowball glass” or a “rocks glass.”
  1. Pour the 1 ½ to 2 ounces of Licor 43 (a Spanish liqueur that is popular in Mexico) over the ice slowly.
  1. Slowly pour the half cup of freshly brewed espresso over the top.
  1. To give the espresso in this Cancun coffee favorite a layered appearance, carefully pour the espresso over the back of a spoon and serve the carajillo with a cocktail stirrer. The type of espresso used in the Cancun coffee cocktail depends on one’s personal preference; it is usually made with regular caffeinated espresso, but espresso descafeinado is also a perfectly valid option — especially if one is consuming it late at night.

Facts About Carajillo

Although carajillo is a Cancun coffee favorite, it didn’t originate in Cancun or anywhere else in Mexico. Carajillo, rather, originated in Spain and made its way to Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, and other Latin American countries. The drink’s ingredients can vary from one Spanish-speaking country to another — even within Spain, there are different versions of carajillo.

The Cancun coffee version often uses Licor 43, a popular liqueur that is manufactured in Cartagena, Spain, and imported to Mexico and many other countries (including the United States). The ingredients of Licor 43 range from cinnamon and orange blossom to anise and vanilla, and it has a custard-like taste.

Other versions of carajillo, however, use anything from brandy in Colombia and parts of Spain to rum in Cuba and Puerto Rico. There is no one “correct” way to make a carajillo, but in Mexico, the combination of espresso, Licor 43, and ice cubes remains a popular Cancun coffee option.

Carajillo is similar to one of Italy’s favorite beverages: caffe corretto, which usually combines Italian espresso with grappa, sambuca, or brandy. In Italian, caffe corretto means “corrected coffee” or “correct coffee.”

Mexico’s Cancun coffee version of carajillo is consumed at different times of the day. It is a popular afternoon drink, but it also works well as an after-dinner beverage. And it can be consumed late at night as well — in which case, some Cancun coffee enthusiasts prefer the decaffeinated version.

Coffee is not only grown in large quantities in Latin America — from Brazil to Colombia to Honduras — it is widely consumed all over Latin America as well. Mexico is no exception. The United States’ neighbor to the south has a variety of Cancun coffee options, and cafe de olla and carajillo are two of the most popular.