Ask Me Anything, Mexico, Travel

Is There Anything Besides Nescafe in Mexico?

Pixi asked:

“Out of curiosity, how often did you find places that had coffee that was not Nescafé on your trip? I was under the impression that was pretty rare.”

This question made me smile. I have consumed a lot of Nescafé.

I poked fun at this a few times in the road logs, and Pixi was with me for the first three Nes-tastic days. If you’ve never had the pleasure, Nescafé is an instant coffee product (made by Nestle) which dominates the Latin American cheap-coffee market. It’s pretty bad, and it was the only coffee Pixi and I experienced for that first week, even at restaurants.

Café de olla (definitely NOT Nescafé). Photo via Fumi Chronicles.

Answer: It depends. In Mexico, anytime you’re in a city it is easy to find “real” coffee (which is to say coffee not made from powder, but often still as bad as a bad diner). On the other hand, in villages or on the road it’s almost always Nescafé. The exception is when a place has café de olla, common in the central highlands, which is brewed in a pot with spices and way too much sugar.

However, even in the cities if you go to a cheap open-air place it could be Nescafé and there are actual coffee houses with super good coffee… so you have options.

To be clear, Nescafé is probably no worse than any other instant coffee powder. But in the US, even the cheapest truckstop wouldn’t hand you a spoonful of instant coffee, whereas in Mexico most cheaper places are basically someone’s front living room and they’re giving you whatever their family uses.

I got used to it pretty quick. I’ve had some friends say that they would just skip coffee altogether if they couldn’t get “real” coffee, but those friends are clearly not coffee addicts. Plus, I like doing things the way the locals around me do them, and being a coffee snob in a small desert village is probably not a great way to make friends.

Do you have  question? Ask me anything.

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4 thoughts on “Is There Anything Besides Nescafe in Mexico?

  1. Calluna says:

    I had a friend who used to make me “Mexican Coffee” on special occassions. I was crazy for it, and eventually got the recipe. Coffee, cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa, brown sugar, and plenty of cream. It’s like caffeinated ice cream in a mug.

    So I have always wondered, is there anything “Mexican” about this? Aside from, maybe, Mexican cuisine seems to love cinnamon and vanilla?

    • Yes, that’s basically café de olla, except that café de olla is served without milk (but it wouldn’t be weird to add milk to your mug). It’s a popular drink in central and northern Mexico, and in one town I saw a sign (in English) that read SPECIAL MEXICAN COFFEE because they knew foreigners wouldn’t remember café de olla. Sounds like it worked!

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