There’s nothing like adding chocolate and warm spices to the hot coffee to make it feel like a hug in a glass. Think cinnamon and chili, especially
There’s nothing like adding chocolate and warm spices to the hot coffee to make it feel like a hug in a glass. Think cinnamon and chili, especially on a cold and dreary day. And nowhere do they know this better than Mexico, where coffee beans, cocoa, and chilies are all grown and all make up essential components of the nation’s cuisine.
We’ll walk through a step-by-step recipe to prepare a Mexican Spiced Hot Chocolate Mocha in this recipe. I’ve even included plenty of suggestions for variations as you make this recipe, so you can make it your own, as flavorful and indulgent as you dare.
A few more details About the ingredients
- While you can brew any coffee for this drink, it’s traditional to use a dark roast for spiced coffee. And to be even more authentic, consider looking for Mexican coffee beans (1). A dark roast can hold its own against the powerful flavors of spices, chocolate, and milk. On the other hand, you will lose the more subtle flavors of a lighter roast, so now is not the time to pull out your most expensive specialty beans.
- If you want to enjoy your Mexican hot chocolate mocha for dessert in the evening, consider using a decaf dark roast, especially since the chocolate is also caffeinated. With the strong flavors of the spices, decaf’s notorious blandness is no issue.
- There are many options for milk in the recipe, with more emerging daily thanks to the boom plant-based milk market (2). Almost any milk will work; it’s up to you, and any allergies you may have, to choose what best suits you.
- For a rich, indulgent, and delicious drink, whole milk is the best choice, but it is high in saturated fat, which may concern some coffee drinkers. In this case, 1% or 2% are acceptable substitutes.
- If you are lactose intolerant, dairy-free milks are also great. Just opt for something unsweetened, unflavored, and with a bit of body, like almond, cashew, or oat milk.
- Chiles de Arbol is a small, red Mexican chili known for having a fiery heat and nutty, smoky flavor (3). They work very nicely in spiced coffee drinks, but you can substitute any dried red chili you can find, keeping in mind that some may be hotter than others. Depending on your tolerance for spicy food, you can use more or less than the recommended amount.
- If you can’t find dried chilies, you can also use ½ tsp of ground spices like cayenne pepper or chipotle powder.
- Again, the type of sugar you use is up to you. White sugar adds sweetness without affecting the drink’s flavor. Brown sugar or demerara sugar will add a darker, molasses character to the drink. For the most authentic option, use piloncillo, a Mexican cane sugar similar to brown sugar. It is used in the traditional Mexican spiced coffee known as cafe de olla.
- Natural or Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder will work for this drink; the higher the quality, the better (4). Just don’t use hot cocoa mix, as this already contains sugar and evaporated milk powder.
How to Make a Mexican Hot Chocolate Mocha
Essentially, a Mexican Hot Chocolate Mocha combines two other comforting drinks you probably already know and love: the traditional spiced Mexican coffee known as cafe de olla and a Mexican hot chocolate. And lucky for us, the result is more than the sum of its parts. It’s as rich and indulgent as hot chocolate, but it’s better-balanced thanks to the addition of bittersweet coffee. Not to mention it can provide a much-needed hit of caffeine on a dark winter morning.
The choice of warming spices, chilies, sugar, and coffee in cafe de olla is no fluke. Legend has it the drink was invented during the Mexican Revolution in 1910, literally to warm soldiers, according to the experts at Perfect Daily Grind (5).
Supposedly, adelitas (revolutionary women) would prepare spiced, sweet coffee beverages to keep soldiers in the camps warm and alert through the night.
If it could support soldiers through a brutal war, this drink can definitely get you through a busy workday or holidays with the extended family.
Because this version of the drink isn’t necessarily authentic, it’s an excellent opportunity to experiment with different spice combinations and the layering of flavors. We’ve provided plenty of suggestions and tips throughout the recipe below, but feel free to get as creative as you want! It’s hard to go wrong when you start with coffee, chocolate, and cinnamon.
Prefer to keep it simple? Then start with our basic Mexican coffee recipe.
Ready to kick it up a notch? Then keep reading.
1. Prepare the spiced milk
Put the milk, cinnamon stick, and dried chilies or chili powder into a small saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. As soon as you see bubbles forming, remove it from the heat. You don’t want to scald the milk. Put a lid on the pan, and let it steep for 15 minutes to infuse the milk with the flavors of the spices.
When preparing your spiced milk, don’t feel like you need to be limited to simply cinnamon and chilies.
There are plenty of other examples of warm spice combinations that work very well with coffee. For example, look at the popularity of pumpkin-spiced coffees, which use ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice. Or experiment with the masala chai spice blend of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and star anise.
You can use this time to prepare your coffee or espresso, ideally using the best beans and freshly ground coffee. The brewing method isn’t that important; you just want to brew an ultra-strong cup. A drip coffee maker, espresso machine, Moka pot, or French press are all good brewing methods. An Aeropress coffee maker also makes a great strong cup, but keep in mind that you’ll probably need to brew a few in a row to get enough coffee.
After the steeping time is up, remove the cinnamon stick and chilies.
Pro tip: If you use a lot of ground rather than whole spices, you may want to consider straining the milk through a cheesecloth or similarly fine material. Otherwise, all the spices can contribute a grainy texture to your final drink.
A Spiced Coffee Variation That Saves You Some Time!
The best way to brew coffee, Mexican coffee included, is to start with whole beans and grind them just before brewing to ensure they are fresh and flavorful. If you’re grinding the coffee beans to prepare your coffee, no matter the coffee maker you use, you can add whole spices along with the beans themselves in the grinder. Then brew the resulting ground coffee mixture as you normally would, and this saves you waiting 15 minutes for your milk to steep.
The only caveat to this method is that you will need to give your grinder a thorough cleaning afterward. Otherwise, your next five batches of coffee grounds will probably taste like spiced coffee.
2. Add the coffee and chocolate to make it a Mexican coffee mocha
Put the now strained and spiced milk back on the stove over very low heat, just warm enough to keep it from getting cold. You don’t want to be approaching a boil. Whisk in the coffee, sugar, and cocoa powder, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
Keep it over low heat while you prepare the whipped cream topping.
Another Variation For The Serious Chocolate Lovers
Anyone who has ever made hot chocolate with cocoa powder versus melted chocolate knows that the latter gives a much more intense chocolate hit, along with a heavier-bodied drink. If you prefer the buttery texture that only comes with real chocolate, there is no reason not to substitute the cocoa powder here with 100 g of dark chocolate or chocolate syrup, whisked in until it melts. The best choice is dark chocolate, especially Mexican chocolate.
Using dark flavored chocolate is another way to add a layer of flavor to this drink. Just stay away from chocolate bars with chunks of stuff inside, and my personal favorite is the much-beloved chocolate and orange flavor combination.
Keep in mind that if you go this route, you’re significantly upping your drink’s caloric and saturated fat content. If you’re worried about the health impacts of making coffee like this or just worried it will taste excessively rich, a great option is to swap in lower-fat milk. Use 1% instead of whole, for example.
3. Make the whipped cream
Put the half cup of whipping cream and the powdered sugar in a bowl and whisk it until you have prepared a stiff whipped cream. It won’t take too long, but if you have an electric mixer or set of egg beaters, you can use them to speed things up and save your arms.
Pro tip: The whipped cream topping is yet another way to add a layer of flavor to your drink if you’re a “more is more” kind of person. A dash of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or another spice; a drop or two of vanilla or almond extract; a tablespoon of cocoa powder; or a grating of orange zest are all welcome additions – though maybe not all at the same time.
4. Assemble the drink and enjoy
Divide the spiced coffee, chocolate, and milk mixture between four pre-warmed mugs in the saucepan. Top each one with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream.
But there’s no need to stop there. If Starbucks or the local coffee shop has taught us anything, it’s that decorating the top of your whipped cream with yet another layer of flavor is never a bad idea.
Consider finishing it off with a drizzle of dark chocolate syrup, Mexican chocolate shavings, or a dusting of ground cinnamon.
Or add some crushed nuts or crumbled cookies for a bit of textural contrast.
Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy, ideally near a roaring fire on a cold morning.
Pro tip: Before pouring the mocha mixture into the mugs, I like to spend a minute giving it a final vigorous whisk in the saucepan. This froths the milk just a bit, giving the drink a heavier body and richer feel.
If you’re looking for a way to make a good cup of coffee even more comforting on a cold day, try a Mexican Spiced Hot Chocolate Mocha. The addition of warm spices, creamy milk, and bittersweet chocolate will have you swooning, and the whipped cream topping takes it right over the top. And with this easy-to-follow recipe, it’s only 30 minutes away.
Is it a drink? Is it a dessert? It doesn’t matter, because it’s delicious! Make this recipe, and no coffee drinker will be able to resist.
What other ways can I flavor coffee?
Spices and chocolate are just the beginning; there are dozens of fun ways to add flavor to coffee, some of which are even health hacks. For example, try different sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or sweetened condensed milk. Try boosting it with exotic flavors like citrus or rosewater. Or switch up your choice of milk, opting for oat or nut milks or everyone’s holiday favorite, eggnog.
You can even add alcohol, as in this recipe for flaming Spanish coffee, just maybe not first thing in the morning.
Can I make spicy cold brew coffee?
Yes, you can make spicy cold brew coffee. It is even easier than making hot spiced coffee because you can take advantage of cold brew’s long steeping time to infuse the spices.
Add whole or ground spices along with the coarsely ground coffee in your cold brew coffee maker (or French press or mason jar), then prepare the cold brew as usual. When you strain out the ground coffee, you’ll strain out the spices as well.
If you want to make it a spiced cold brew mocha, go ahead and dilute the cold brew concentrate with chocolate milk. You won’t regret it.
Looking for another iced-and-spiced coffee recipe? Check out this Thai iced coffee.
Is spiced coffee healthy?
In many ways, spiced coffee is healthy, depending on how you make it and on your health goals.
For example, plenty of studies has shown that coffee itself is healthy, helping to prevent diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and many other common ailments. This can be amplified by adding both cinnamon sticks and unsweetened cocoa powder, each with health benefits (6).
However, a spicy chocolate coffee can be high in both sugar and saturated fat, especially when topped with whipped cream. So it’s best to enjoy it in moderation if health benefits are a focus.
- Harper, J. (2020, March 25). Coffee Origins: A Guide to Mexico. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/03/coffee-origins-a-guide-to-mexico/
- Evans, J. and Terazono, E. (2021, May 7). The battle for the future of milk. Retrieved from https://www.ft.com/content/da70e996-a70b-484d-b3e6-ea8229253fc4
- Bon Appétit. (2008, June 27). Chiles de árbol. Retrieved from https://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/ingredients/article/chiles-de-rbol
- Sertich Velle, M. (2019, November 1). What’s the Difference Between Dutch Process and Natural Cocoa Powder? Retrieved from https://www.seriouseats.com/difference-dutch-process-natural-cocoa-powder-substitute
- Valencia, A. (2021, January 7). What is Cafe De Olla? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2021/01/what-is-the-cafe-de-olla/
- Gunnars, K. (2020, August 20). 8 Ways to Make Your Coffee Super Healthy. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-ways-to-make-your-coffee-super-healthy#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2