It’s called Asian coffee, but it’s actually a 100% Spanish way of making coffee. More precisely, the town of Cartagena, in the Murcia region, is the place where Asian coffee originated and is still popular today.
How to make Asian coffee
Making Asian coffee is very easy, in fact it can easily be made in Italy too, at the bar or at home:
1. Pour some condensed milk into a cone-shaped glass. The quantity you use should be a third of the finished drink.
2. Add some cognac and Licor 43, in quantities equal to a sixth of the entire drink, or to suit your taste. The recipe has evolved over time, and some prefer to add brandy rather than cognac and Licor 43. In fact, some versions of the origins of Asian coffee cite brandy as the alcoholic product used in the original recipe.
3. Pour in a small cup of creamy espresso coffee, in a quantity equal to a third of the whole drink.
4. Finally, complete the recipe by adding frothed milk, cinnamon powder or sticks, lemon peel and two or three roasted coffee beans for decoration.
It’s now ready to serve, with or without a straw.
When it comes to tasting the end result, some prefer to mix all the ingredients together, including the lemon peel, to obtain a single mixture with an unmistakable taste. Others like to use a straw and sip the ingredients separately, starting from the bottom and moving upwards. It’s a matter of personal taste.
The gastronomic symbol of Cartagena
Asian coffee is, to all effects, a symbolic product of the town of Cartagena. In fact, the typical breakfast consumed in the area consists of Asian coffee, toasted wheat bread and Parma ham.
When it comes to the origins of Asian coffee, there are two legendary versions that couldn’t be more different:
- According to some, this unique recipe originated in the bars of the port area in Calle Mayor, as the Asian traders who arrived there would order coffee with condensed milk and brandy;
- Instead, others say that the drink was created by Spaniard Pedro Conesa Ortega in his own bar, Bar Pedron, located in an area of Cartagena known as El Abujiòn.
Legend has it that Asian coffee first saw the light because of a worn-out coffee machine. Ortega’s wife – having noted that the coffee machine, which was rather worn but not yet ready to be replaced, produced coffee with the bitter taste typical of coffee grounds – proposed that they add condensed milk and a liqueur to conceal its bitter, rather unpleasant taste.
Identifying the real origins of Asian coffee is not easy. But it is a recipe definitely worth trying because it is made with ingredients that complement one another perfectly, including lemon peel.
We Italians also use lemon in our coffee and sometimes much more than a piece of peel:
- Both for a question of taste, as we’ve seen in the 30 + 2 coffees that Italians order at the bar, which include a version combining a delicious lemon cream with the classic espresso, complementing the flavour of our favourite black beverage.
- And also for health reasons, as in coffee with lemon, a cure-all with many health benefits.