Enjoying a cup of coffee is a sacred ritual for many of us and it’s also a very personal choice and there are plenty to choose from inspired by the styles of cafes found in Latin America. Maybe you even had a taste of coffee when you were still a kid? For some of us, it’s that ingrained in our culture. Countries including Cuba, Argentina, and Brazil are known for their large consumption of coffee and their own signature versions of cafecito. Whether you’re a cafe de olla fan or love a good cafe Cubano, coffee of all kinds are popular throughout Latin America and it’s a matter of finding your favorite. If you’ve ever had questions about the types of coffee from LATAM or wondered how they make it, we’re here to help guide you. Here are 10 of the most common coffee drinks from Latin America.
Cafe de la Olla
Cafe de la olla dates back to the early 1900s reportedly developed by women of the Mexican revolution. This spiced drink is traditionally made with Mexican ground coffee, cinnamon, and raw dark sugar known as “piloncillo.” Some people add in cloves or star anise for extra flavor. It’s normally brewed in an olla de barro, or Mexican clay pot, that adds a layer of earthiness to the flavor.
The cortado originated in Spain and has grown in popularity throughout Portugal and Cuba. So what exactly is a cortado? It’s a smaller-sized hot coffee that contains espresso and warm milk. The warm milk is steamed so it doesn’t have much froth or milk foam like other coffee drinks. Cortados should be sipped slowly since the caffeine is strong. Some places may even serve you a glass of water to cleanse your palate after each sip.
Cafe Cubano is similar to a cortado (half milk, half espresso) but in this instance the coffee is sweetened. This drink has sweet cream (espumita) that floats on top that gives it a unique taste. The sugar is stirred with a splash of cafe which gives it a thicker consistency versus simply adding the sugar.
If you’re in Colombia, expect to see tintos on all menus and they’re also available through street vendors throughout the country. It is the most common caffeinated beverage in Colombia and it’s basically a simple black coffee. It’s made by ‘cooking’ ground coffee in a pan with boiling water then storing it for when it’s ready to be enjoyed.
Another Cuban drink, the colada, is a signature beverage that’s been to be enjoyed with others. A colada is made by brewing coffee in a cafetera and, similar to the cafe Cuban, the espresso is whisked with sugar to create a “crema.” It comes in a styrofoam cup with a stack of smaller cups for sharing.
The lágrima is for the cautious caffeine consumer. This Argentinian beverage is milk (sometimes frothed) with a very small amount of coffee – a lágrima (teardrop) amount to be exact. It’s quite easy to make this coffee: put warm milk in a cup and fill it with a dose of espresso with a ratio of 9:1. You still get that hit of espresso but it’s tempered by the milk.
Café Chorreado may be on of Costa Rica’s best kept secrets. This beverage gets its name from the device locals use to extract the coffee, el chorreado. It’s made of wood and holds a cotton filter while your cup is placed underneath the filter. The device is very simple and gives the coffee lover control of how their coffee is made. In Costa Rica, many people get their cotton filters from specialized craftsmen and can be used over and over again for five to six months. You simply wash it in water, soak it in salt, and rinse it well.
Peru is one of the largest exporters of organic coffee so it’s not surprising they have their signature way of making it. Cafe pasado is a variation on cafe chorreado, it requires a two-chambered coffee brewer with a filter in between. Like cafe chorreado, ground coffee and hot water are added to the top part of the device and brewed coffee is extracted into your mug. You can then add milk or anything else you’d like.
Cafe Con Leche
This popular Latin American beverage is prepared by combining equal parts of espresso and milk. The espresso is prepared as normal but the milk is scalded rather than steamed or added cold. This is because scalding was used back in the day to kill bacteria that was found in milk. Nowadays our milk is pasteurized making is safe to consume. The combination of espresso and scalded milk creates this rich, creamy, and naturally sweet drink that you can enjoy any time of day.
Cafezinho is a staple in Brazil which is one of the largest producers of coffee beans in the world. Cafezinho is mixed with sugar so it’s not as bitter as an espresso but it’s just as strong and typically consumed as is (so no milk or cream). You need a sauce pan that you’ll use just to make cafezinho, a flannel cloth filter, and the traditional plastic cups.