History · Josefina · Stories

Coffee in Josefina’s World

I love coffee! But would my historical AG dolls have loved it, too? This is my second installment in a series of posts investigating coffee in the historical dolls’ worlds. The first post looked at coffee’s rise to popularity in Felicity’s Revolutionary America. Today I head forward in time to explore coffee’s place on the table in 1825 Mexico.

Would Josefina have liked coffee? How would she have drank it, and how would it be prepared? And if I recall correctly… didn’t Josefina and her sisters have a weakness for… chocolate?

Mexican Chocolate

Coffee Culture in Mexico

The Santa Fe Trail

Josefina probably would have had coffee available to her family on the trade route to Santa Fe, since there were coffee plantations in Mexico beginning in the late 18th century. As Americans began to travel west, they also brought their east-coast coffee habits with them. These habits hadn’t changed much since Felicity’s time. Coffee was still prepared by taking green beans and roasting them over a fire, then grinding them with a mortar and pestle and boiling the resulting powder. This “Cowboy Coffee” was brought west by cowboys, frontiersman, and settlers. Since cowboys often had nothing but a campfire, a grinder, and a pot, they began to pack coffee that had been pre-roasted before their trips. In the early 1800s, Thomas Jefferson allegedly called coffee “the favorite drink of the civilized world.”

Unfortunately, this is not just a cute story about comforting cups of java and European notions of civility. In Josefina’s Mexico, coffee was tied up with politics and struggles for cultural identity. As demand for the beans to make this “civilized” drink grew, plantations popped up in Central and South America. Coffee was brought to Mexico by Spanish colonists in the late 1700s, and the first coffee plantations appeared in Vera Cruz in the 1790s. Later, wealthy Spanish colonists in Mexico began to purchase “unregistered” land and force indigenous residents into indentured servitude. Coffee cultivation in Mexico brought with it political, racial, and economic injustice, and labor conditions for workers on coffee plantations have been described as worse than American slavery.

Alfred Briquet, 1870s “Vistas Mexicanas” Plantation de café

With all of this in the background, you can imagine that Josefina and her family may not have put coffee at the top of their shopping list. I had trouble finding any evidence for coffee culture on Mexican ranchos in Josefina’s era. Given the situation described above, Josefina’s Aunt and father had good reasons to keep coffee out of their kitchens.

So what did Josefina drink?

If Josefina didn’t drink coffee, she had something even better to start the day: a nice warm cup of spicy hot chocolate. That’s right, kids and kiddos. Chocolate for breakfast!

According to the book, “Taste of the States:”

“In the early 1800s the favorite beverage of New Mexico was chocolate, prepared from blocks of unsweetened chocolate imported from Mexico. It was shaved and cut into small chips, placed in pitchers or mugs, and mixed with hot water. Spices and sugar sweetened the bitter taste.”

Children in 19th century Mexico would often drink hot chocolate first thing in the day (this is still quite common today, too!). To prepare the drink, they’d use a special instrument called a molinillo (pronounced “mole-ee nee-yo”). A molinillo is a traditional Mexican tool that is used to froth hot chocolate as well as coffee with milk. Molinillos are often decorated with hand carvings, and they can be quite beautiful and elaborate.

a woman stirring chocolate with a molinillo

To stir chocolate with a molinillo, children would hold it between their palms. By rubbing their palms together, the molinillo would rotate back and forth, stirring up chocolatey goodness in the pot. It would then be poured from the pot into a cup. Children even sang a molinillo song while they stirred up their chocolatey treat:

Spanish                                 English
Bate, bate, chocolate          Stir, stir, chocolate
Tu nariz de cacahuate       Your nose is a peanut
Uno, dos, tres, CHO!           One, two, three, CHO!
Uno, dos, tres, CO!              One, two, three, CO!
Uno, dos, tres, LA!              One, two, three, LA!
Uno, dos, tres, TE!              One, two, three, TE!
Chocolate, chocolate!         Chocolate, chocolate!
Bate, bate, chocolate!         Stir, stir, the chocolate!
Bate, bate, bate, bate          Stir, stir, stir, stir
Bate, bate, CHOCOLATE    Stir, stir, CHOCOLATE!

Josefina’s hot chocolate may have been mixed with corn flour, aniseed, cinnamon, chile powder, or a range of other spices. As much as I love coffee, I can see why she would have preferred a cup of chocolate! It sounds delicious, and looks like a lot of fun to make.

Make Champurrado & Bizcochitos with Josefina

Want to make hot chocolate just like Josefina? You can try the recipe below! Josefina’s hot chocolate recipe was probably a variant of champurrado. Champurrado is a chocolate-based atole, a hot drink thickened with corn flour and sweetened with piloncillo (sugar cane).

Champurrado Recipe: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/recipes/detail/mexican-champurrado

Bizcochito Recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/88027/biscochitos-traditional-cookies/

To make this recipe, you will need masa harina, Mexican chocolate, piloncillo, and star anise (as well as water and milk). Cinnamon and vanilla are other common spices which you could experiment with. Bob’s Red Mills and Quaker both make masa harina. It’s a very common ingredient in Mexican cooking, so you may even find it in your local grocery. Goya sells 8 oz packs of piloncillo. You can currently find it on Amazon (sold in packs of 2) if you can’t find it locally. Otherwise you can substitute brown sugar.

For special occasions, Josefina might have drank her chocolate with a bizcochito, a cookie flavored with cinnamon and anise that was popularized in New Mexico by Spanish colonists. In the 1980s, Bizcochitos were named an official food of New Mexico.

A Molinillo for Josefina

If you want to get a miniature molinillo for Josefina, you’re in luck! You can find some on Etsy. These are molinillo pens, which could work well once the pen/ink is removed. And here’s some miniature molinillos from Mexico, which come in different sizes.

It seems to me that the pitcher from her birthday feast would work well for a chocolate pot. Wouldn’t a molinillo look nice on her table?If you put together a chocolate set for Josefina, or try out some of the recipes above, I would love to see pictures! You can contact me in the comments or at dollsinthecloset (at) yahoo.com. Next time, we’ll check out coffee and tea on the American frontier. Until then!

xoxo Toni (& Josefina!)

Sources: Wikipedia, BizcochitoMolinillo, Gourmet SleuthHistory of Coffee in MexicoHistory of Coffee in AmericaCoffee’s History in America ; American Coffee Culture in 1872; Coffee: Its History, Cultivation, and Use by Robert Hewitt Jr., 1872; Taste of the States: A Food History of America, by Hilde Gabriel Lee, 1992 (p. 202-4)

Photo credits: Mexican Chocolate pic; The Santa Fe Trail; Vistas Mexicanas; Molinillo pics; Champurrado pic; Bizcochito pic 


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