The article gives a detailed and personalized answer to the title question what is coffee jelly, and also provides tips on how to make the dessert.
I am a traditionalist when it comes to coffee. I like my cup of joe hot, black, and strong—no cream, no sugar. So I never got caught up in the craze for cold coffee drinks, and I never considered making a coffee dessert. That is, until recently.
I had friends over for dinner. To make an impression, I decided to make coffee jelly. I remember this dessert from the years I spent in Japan.
It took some time and a bit of experimentation, but eventually, I got the recipe right, served the dish, and was rewarded with accolades from my guests.
What Is Coffee Jelly?
Coffee jelly is one of the most popular desserts in Japan. However, the earliest recipes for the dessert appear in early 19th century England.
The Japanese, in imitation of European jellies, started making the dessert as early as 1912. At that time, it appealed to young men with a taste for Western fashion.
As Japan’s wealth and contact with European culture increased, so did café culture. The coffee jelly dessert was part of this emerging trend. However, its popularity in the country never diminished, and it continues to be a mainstay of cafes and restaurants in Japan.
Though coffee jelly is trendy, it is hard to find in cafes and restaurants outside of Japan. If you ever see a dessert glass cup filled with jiggly cubes of sweetened, gelatinized coffee topped with a drop of whipped cream, then it is probably coffee jelly. If you enjoyed this post, you’ll enjoy our guide on the best coffee beans to eat and our explainer on is coffee jelly healthy.
My Past Experience With Coffee Jelly
I had coffee jelly once when I lived in Japan. I was on a date with a Japanese woman, and she asked me if I had ever tried it. I said no. And because I didn’t want to come off as yet another parochial closed-minded American, I ordered a portion for dessert.
If I liked the taste of cold coffee, I think I would have liked it. The taste was strong, rich, and natural. It was as though someone turned an especially chocolaty dark roast into Jell-O. Each of the cubes in the drink was firm but not chewy.
Truth be told, I found some pleasure in the way that each block melted in my mouth. It was a sign of high-quality ingredients and good preparation.
Experimenting With Coffee Jelly
Coffee jelly is best made with dark roast coffee beans. However, you can still make a tasty dessert with lighter beans. In Japan, I had a traditional coffee jelly made in the way described above. But there are different flavors and combinations you can experiment with.
Here are a few of them:
1. Make It A Mocha
Chocolate and coffee stirred together make a mocha. Putting chocolate syrup or cocoa powder into your coffee jelly will give it a mocha flavor. And if you are addicted to the latter, then you should definitely try it with your coffee jelly.
If you have a sweet tooth, check out our dessert café explainer.
2. Add It To Your Iced Latte
If you are in the habit of drinking iced lattes in the summer, you can load this drink with the jiggly cubes of coffee jelly. Doing so will turn the drink into a dessert. You can either spoon out the cubes after you have finished the iced drink or slurp the cubes through a metal straw.
3. A Little Coconut
Adding coconut milk or cream, or even shredded pieces of the coconut fruit, to your coffee jelly will enhance its flavor.
How To Make A Traditional Coffee Jelly
I recalled this experience when I thought about my upcoming dinner party. I’m not too fond of cold coffee, but it seems like everyone else is. So, I figured I’d give in to the will of the people just this once.
Here is How to Make It:
1. Boil a cup of water in a small saucepan.
2. Add 2 tsp of agar-agar powder, 1 tsp of granulated sugar, and a finger-pinch of salt. Add the latter ingredients to the boiled water until they have dissolved.
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3. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool. You will then need to add a cup of cold-brew concentrate.
4. Pour this mixture into an 8×8 baking dish. Let it chill in the fridge for about 2 hours. This will be your coffee jelly.
5. In the meantime, beat a cup of heavy cream and a tsp of granulated sugar in a bowl with a mixer or whisk. Do this until soft peaks begin to form.
6. Cover the dish and keep it cool until you are ready to serve.
7. When you’re ready to serve the dessert, cut the jelly into half or three-fourth cubes. Again, there is no rule here. Just use your discretion.
8. Add a dollop of whipped cream. Chocolate shavings, ground cinnamon, and cocoa powder will add even more sweetness and delight.
You can usually serve up to 4 dishes with this recipe.