Vendedores Ambulantes and Good Coffee

Photos and Text by John Todd, Jr.

Vendedor Ambulante
Another Fiesta
The other day I was invited to another fiesta with live music.

Just inside the front door of many fiestas, you can always find a vendedor ambulante.

In small towns they seem to always know where the best fiestas are.

Vendedor Ambulante
Walking salesmen are every where in Mexico.

You see them at all the social gatherings.

They sell mostly peanuts and chewing gum, and a lot of little chácharas.

They are always friendly.
The Seller of Dreams
The Sellers of Dreams
They also sell dreams of wonderment to little children.

A couple of adults were also standing around watching.

A very old man bought some bubbles for his grandchild.

We were offered a glass of some good "agua de jamaica", which tastes like a fresh Hawaiian Punch.

It is made on the spot from the natural leaves that grow in the mountains near Veracruz.

Selling Dreams
Can You Do It One More Time, Mister?
Natural "Jamaica" Juice
The Main Table
Las Flores
Flowers in Mexico
In Mexico fresh flowers are everywhere all year long.

They aren´t expensive, and people always buy them fresh for celebrations.

You can find a flower section in almost every market in Mexico.
La Música
Live Music
Live music is good, and if you have ever heard a loud "cumbia" played along with about 1,000 people, you will know what I mean.

The band also played a local version of músic tropical called "Chun-chaca".

Here´s a video clip of some "Chun-chaca" music. You can see why it´s called "Chun-chaca".
Finding a Table
By this time finding a table wasn´t easy.

I followed my friends among the people, greeting people along the way with friendly "abrazos".

We found some other people we knew who had a few empty seats and joined them at their table.After awhile I got up to take a look around.

The aromatic Mexican coffee was good, and I wondered how they made it.
Coffee Servers
Serving Coffee
Old Fashioned Coffee
In Veracruz, the rich café de olla is served as it always has been.

These are traditional coffee serving pots where the hot coffee comes from the middle of the pot.

That way you don´t get any grounds.

I walked around back to watch them make it because I enjoy being around the smell of fresh roasted coffee.

So I went to take a look to see how they make it.
Tossing in the Sugar
How to Make Café de Olla
Café de Olla is easy to make.

First you boil the water with bottled gas.

When it is boiling you throw in several cups of sugar.

Then two men carry the boiling water over to the coffee master.

The Coffee Master
The Coffee Master adds 1 kilo of Café de Bola, one of the best known brands of coffee in Veracruz.

"Es Fácil", the Master told me as I watched him stir the dry ground coffee into the water.

"You add the coffee to the hot water."

Fresh Ground Coffee
Fresh Ground Coffee
Enraptured by the Aroma
By this time I was enraptured by the rich smell of aromatic coffee.To capture the feeling you should go to your kitchen and take out your tin of coffee. Take off the top, and inhale.

You will know what it smelled like that day standing around watching the Coffee Master.

Coffee Particles Become Saturated and Sink
Tiny bubbles began to form under the dry grounds on the surface of the water.Slowly the coffee particles became saturated and sank to the bottom on the pot.

On the way down the delicious particles were being released into the water.

The Coffee Master gently stirs the mix with a rounded spoon so he won´t "bruise" the coffee. I thought he was joking.

"No, mi amigo, you must be gentle with the coffee. "

"This is the critical time."
Stirring the Steaming Mass
Stirring During Cooling
Just About Right
Amigo, Would You Like to Try Some?
The Pots
The Test
I tried some of the fresh brew and it tasted just like it smelled.Rich and heavy almost like chocolate.

Later I noticed my nerves weren´t jangled.

The Coffee Master told me good coffee doesn´t do that.

The Servers
Standing by were the servers waiting with their special coffee serving pots.

The spout of a good coffee serving pot starts in the middle so you don´t get any of the grounds.
Serving Pots
Te de Manzanilla
The were also boiling fresh manzanilla tea.

Manzanilla tea is made from the fresh plant with has little yellow flowers.

The plants are bundled together and wrapped with a plant like string and placed in boiling water until done.

Te de manzanilla has a slightly calming effect and is good for cleansing your system.

Many people in Mexico prefer it over coffee.

Dinner is Served
The reason for the celebration was an anniversary, and the formalities were good.

Later, it was time to eat, and tamales wrapped in banana leaves were served.

They were good!
Then it was time for desert. Birthday cake for everybody.

The vendedores ambulantes were making their last rounds, and the celebration was winding down.

It was time to go.

When I get back to Veracruz, I think I´ll buy a kilo of good coffee and try to make some café de olla on my own.

In case it doesn´t work out, I always have my jar of Nescafé Instantaneo.

It may not be as rich and aromatic, but it´s not as complicated.

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