Toasted Maize Coffee / Café de Maize Tostado – Café de Palo – Café Pusungo   10 comments

Here is a treat I got to see  recently – someone grinding Salvadoran-style “coffee” made of toasted maize, also called “cafe de palo,” or as my mother in law terms it, “cafe pusungo”.    Our neighbors in Chalatenango, Lupita and her brother Cristian, came by my mother-in-law’s house to borrow her “molino” or grinder, to finish making a batch.  Lupita says her mother likes to drink it because “no le hace dano” (it isn’t bad for her health).

She had a bucket full of toasted maize kernels, blackened on the comal/griddle, and was grinding away.  Her arm was getting tired, so Cristian jumped in and started winding the grinder like it was a kid’s toy – he did it like a pro.  Take a look at the results:   doesn’t it look like coffee?   I had to sample it, of course  – didn’t taste much like coffee, or anything I’d want to drink, but then, coffee is an acquired taste.

Café de maize tostado is a traditional drink in El Salvador, and other parts of Latin America.   It was consumed much more in the ‘old days’, but as we see by this example, still consumed by some to this day.   Looking into the history of this beverage, I cannot yet determine if it was a traditional indigenous drink before the America’s were colonized or not, but it has been an economic surrogate for coffee.   According to this 2001 article in the Diario de Hoy (translation, with original text, following),

“At one time, don Lito, the price of coffee was so high, that the poor, not having the resources to drink good coffee, would instead drink coffee of toasted maize, which they sometimes mixed with avocado seed and coffee casings [the shells containing the grains] to give it some flavor.   Nowadays, 100 pounds of maize is worth more than 100 pounds of coffee, even though it only takes four months to produce that 100 pounds of maize, and four years for the same amount of coffee!”

“-En un tiempo, don Lito, el precio del café era tan alto, que los pobres, para variar, no tenían capacidad de tomar buen café y tomaban café de maíz tostado, que a veces lo revolvían con semilla de aguacate y algunas cascaritas de café cereza, para darle sabor. Ahora, un quintal de maíz en plaza vale más que un quintal de café, aunque para producir un quintal de maíz sólo se tarda cuatro meses, igualito que el café, sólo que ¡cuatro años! ”  – link to article by Lito Moltalvo, in Diario de Hoy

10 responses to “Toasted Maize Coffee / Café de Maize Tostado – Café de Palo – Café Pusungo

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  1. I’m fascinated to know what it DID taste like, if it didn’t taste like coffee? Its so interesting to read about different styles.

  2. I have a huge bag of that! A family gave it to me as a gift when I was leaving the country. I would stop by their house two or three times a week for cafe de maiz. They toasted and milled it & they added cinnamon as they were making it. I really miss those days.

  3. what a nice going away gift, you can make it at home and remember El Salvador and your friends there.

  4. I first tried it as a kid visiting my grand parents in San Miguel… The taste was amazing and being a big coffee drinker, it has stuck with me thoroughout my adult life…never had it since, but I do believe the kind I had was mix; mostly coffee with roasted corn…along with the raw milk, fresh cheese, refried beans and plantains, cafe de palo is one of my fondest memories as a kid in El Salvador.

  5. Hello, does drinking Toasted Maize Coffee help in stablizing blood sugar in a human being as I have been told?

    • Hi Geoffrey Tony – I’m not a doctor or nurse so have no idea, but I do believe this is one way of getting your URL,, some more exposure. A Google search will help you determine if it does stabilize blood sugar, if that’s what you’re really looking for.

  6. Hello! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using
    for this website? I’m getting fed up of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m looking at alternatives for another platform. I would be awesome if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

    • Hi frg, this is wordpress and I havent ventured out of it. I’m not too worried about hackers, bc what is the worse they will do? I don’t have any reason for someone to hack my site. Not worrying about things that probably wont happen. If you have a good blog and it’s not about making lots of money or something seedy or controversial that people might want to disrupt, then why worry about it?

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