The Intriguing History Of Mazagran Coffee: Try 2 delicious recipes

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The Intriguing History Of Mazagran Coffee:

The Intriguing History Of Mazagran Coffee: Mazagran is a sweetened cold coffee beverage popular in countries such as Algeria (where the drink was invented), Portugal, Spain, and Austria. The origins of mazagran coffee date back to 1840. During this time, France invaded and colonized Algeria – a North African country bordering Morocco and Tunisia. Along with a rudimentary form of cold brew consumed by Japanese sailors in the 17th century, mazagran has been described as “the original iced coffee” by some historians. Today, this cold coffee drink is popular during warmer months in several countries and contains various ingredients.

Cultural Roots: What is Mazagran Coffee?

Although there are several ways to prepare mazagran coffee, the original recipe only included cold coffee and water. Since then, the drink has evolved to include other ingredients such as lemon juice, cane sugar, mint, and different alcoholic spirits. However, to understand mazagran coffee, we first need to look back at its history.

Where did it come from?

Many historians agree that the beverage was first invented in 1840 in Algeria, under French colonial rule (which ended in 1962). The term “mazagran” is believed to have originated from a fortress named Mazagran in the coastal town of Mostaganem in northwest Algeria. In 1837, French colonizers occupied the fortress for several years.

To cope with the hotter temperatures, it was said that French colonial soldiers would drink cold coffee with added water. Some troops also used sweetened coffee syrup or added spirits like cognac and rum to stay awake at night.

“French colonial soldiers added cognac to their coffee to prepare for battle,” Tiago tells me. “They then added water or ice to create a cold beverage.

“When these soldiers returned to Paris, they ordered their coffee drinks ‘mazagran style’ in coffee houses and bars, making it a more popular drink in France,” he adds. “It was served with ice and lemon in tall glasses, becoming known as ‘café mazagran’.”

However, while it’s clear that French colonizers invented mazagran coffee as we know it today, Algeria’s coffee consumption history dates back much further.

In the 15th century, Yemeni Sufi monk Ali bin Omar al Shadhili introduced coffee to Algeria. At the time, coffee was commonly roasted and consumed by Sufi Muslim people. In Algeria, coffee is commonly referred to as “shadiliyye” – a moniker believed to come from Ali bin Omar al Shadhili.

Rich Tradition: The Cultural Significance of the Mazagran Cup

Across many African and Middle Eastern countries (such as Ethiopia, Senegal, Lebanon, and Turkey), there are various traditional brewing methods and coffee beverages. As part of these coffee cultures, people also use traditional brewing equipment or drinkware, such as the mazagran cup.

The tall shape of the mazagran cup was inspired by traditional Algerian coffee drinking vessels. Mazagran cups are usually made of porcelain, terracotta, or glass and are designed to have a “foot.” In some cases, mazagran cups may also have handles, but this isn’t common.

Historically, in France, mazagran coffee was served in “mazagrin” glasses, closely resembling the traditional mazagran cup. The historic province of Berry in France – known for its intricately-designed porcelain – is believed to have manufactured mazagran cups sometime in the 19th century. Vintage mazagrans are often purchased for significant amounts of money.

Diverse Flavors: Regional Recipe Variations

Today, mazagran coffee is on the menus of coffee houses and bars in countries like Portugal, Spain, Austria, and France – each country often having its unique twist on the drink.

The mazagran is especially popular in Portugal, with some describing it as “Portuguese iced coffee.” This is largely because of the long history between Portugal and North African countries, including Morocco.

In the 16th century, Portuguese colonizers established the Portuguese City of Mazagan – now part of El Jadida – in Morocco. The former city is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its historically significant architecture.

“For Portuguese people, the mazagran is a Portuguese drink and a national treasure, which we often consume with a pastel de nata or two,” Tiago says.

Café A Brasileira, which first opened in 1905, is one of the oldest and most famous coffee shops in Lisbon. The café initially imported Brazilian coffee to Portugal and has become a popular spot for both locals and tourists.

Tiago says that the Mazagran has been the only cold coffee beverage on Café A Brasileira’s menu for more than 115 years.

In Portugal, it’s common to prepare a mazagran with either a filter coffee concentrate or espresso, along with ice and lemon. You can also add rum or sugar syrup.

What about other countries?

In parts of Spain (mainly Catalonia and Valencia), many cafés serve mazagran coffee with lemon peel, referred to as “Café del temps” or “café del tiempo.” In Austria, the drink only contains ice and rum – and people often consume it in one swallow.

While mazagran coffee has remained popular in these particular countries for some time, it has yet to become a part of coffee shop menus elsewhere. In fact, in 1994, Starbucks and PepsiCo launched a “Mazagran Spice Blend” carbonated drink in California, but it didn’t prove popular among US consumers.

Following this, Starbucks then used the coffee extract from its Mazagran Spice Blend in its ready-to-drink Frappuccino products, which quickly became a commercial success.

Simple Joy: How Do You Make It?

Although there are many ways to prepare mazagran coffee, here are two recipes:

The Classic Portuguese Mazagran Recipe

This recipe is from Felipe Caixinha, a bartender at Café A Brasileira.


– Two shots of espresso or 240ml of brewed coffee
– Two tablespoons of brown sugar
– Four to five tablespoons of fresh lemon (or lime) juice
– A few lemon (or lime) slices
– A handful of crushed ice
– A few mint leaves


1. Fill a cocktail shaker (or glass with a lid) with crushed ice.
2. Add the lemon juice, sugar, and coffee. Shake vigorously.
3. Serve in a tall glass and add mint leaves and lemon slices.

The “Specialty” Mazagran Recipe

This recipe is from Mateus Maneschy, a barista at Thank You Mama in Lisbon, Portugal.

Mateus notes that for a non-alcoholic version, substitute the rum for a larger volume of cold brew – he recommends between 120ml and 150ml.


– 80 ml cold brew
– 10 ml of brown sugar syrup (mix equal parts sugar with warm water)
– 15 ml of Sicilian lemon syrup (recipe below)
– 35 ml of lemon juice
– 45 ml of rum (Mateus uses one aged for seven years)


1. Add all ingredients, along with large ice cubes, to a cocktail shaker.
2. Shake vigorously and strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve.
3. Serve in an old-fashioned glass (a glass tumbler used for serving spirits) with ice.
4. Garnish as desired – Mateus suggests thin slices of lemon sprinkled with ground coffee.

Mateus’ Lemon Syrup Recipe:

1. In a sealable jar with a lid, place 30g of lemon peel with the pith removed.
2. Add 300g white sugar and keep covered overnight at room temperature.
3. The following day, add 300ml hot water and mix until the sugar completely dissolves.
4. Filter the mixture and store in the fridge for up to 25 days.

Bright Future: The Popularity of Mazagran Coffee

The popularity of mazagran coffee in countries like Portugal and Spain is undeniable, but it’s evident that it has yet to spread to coffee shops in other parts of the world.

However, given the immense popularity of cold brew, iced coffee drinks, and coffee cocktails with consumers across the world, it is certainly possible that we could see mazagran coffee appear on menus more widely in the near future.

The Intriguing History Of Mazagran Coffee: Conclusion

Mazagran coffee, with its rich history and diverse regional variations, represents a unique chapter in the world of coffee. From its origins in 1840s Algeria to its popularity in Portugal, Spain, and Austria, this sweetened cold coffee beverage has evolved significantly. It stands out not only for its refreshing taste but also for its cultural significance, embodied in the traditional mazagran cups.

The classic Portuguese mazagran and specialty variations demonstrate the drink’s versatility and enduring appeal. Despite its limited presence in global coffee shops, the growing popularity of cold brew and iced coffee drinks suggests that mazagran coffee could soon capture the interest of coffee enthusiasts worldwide.

Whether enjoyed with a pastel de nata in Lisbon or a lemon peel in Catalonia, mazagran coffee offers a delightful and refreshing way to experience a piece of coffee history. Its journey from colonial Algeria to modern-day cafes highlights the beverage’s adaptability and potential for a broader global appreciation.