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Try A Cafe Con Chile

By: Susana Raymundo

If you have been in Guatemala for longer than twenty minutes, then you have probably had a cup of coffee.

People who don’t drink coffee are, well, weird.  Some people like agua de calcetín (dirty sock water), and others like strong coffee…but the one thing that we can all agree on is that starting the day without a cup of coffee is too hard to pull off.  Within Xela city limits, coffee is usually prepared on a stove or in a coffee maker—but outside town you can try coffee that is made on a clay stove.  Usually cooked with a lot of sugar, this type of coffee is very sweet and has a unique taste.

Native Guatemalans, generally don’t like café cargado (loaded coffee), we generally like it with loads and loads of sugar.  Foreigners, in my experience, are quite the opposite—although both natives and foreigners will throw in chocolate or rum depending on taste.

Within Xela, it is fairly hard to find a few types of coffee that are pretty common back in my home department of Quiché.  Have you ever seen itx kape’, cashlanpiente’, or k’ay la k’ay on any menu around town? Probably not. These are different names in Ixil for special coffees that are served in Quiche.  What exactly goes into these different drinks?  Read on:

Itx kape’: This is coffee with chile.  Yeah, it sounds weird, but is very, very tasty.  While the coffee is being ground it is mixed with a dried chile, and they are ground together.  It is ground to a very fine consistency and is served by dumping boiling water on top of it.

Cashlanpiente’: This is coffee with chile and pepper.  Pretty much this is the exact same thing as coffee with chile, only there is also black pepper that is added.  Because this is a strong beverage, when it is ground you are given two bags: one with chile and pepper and one without.  That way each person can make coffee to his or her own taste.

K’ay la k’ay: This is coffee with chile, pepper, lemon, rum and salt.  Pretty much this is coffee that is designed to wake the dead.  Prepared in the same way as cashlanpiente’, you add a spoonful of rum (or more, I guess…but classically, it’s a spoonful), a pinch of salt and the juice of one small lemon.  Traditionally, we pray the coffee prayer, and it is ready.

NOTE: To try any of these coffees take a trip to Nebaj, or feel free to contact me (5791-7652) for a sample.

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