What Is Coffee Jelly And How Do You Eat It?

America's love affair with coffee isn't going anywhere anytime soon. According to a March 2020 survey conducted by the National Coffee Association, 70% of Americans drink coffee every week with 62% of us making it a daily habit. And, really, what's not to love? It can be served hot or cold, nitro or cold brewed, sweetened or strong—the options are almost endless. It wakes us up on Monday mornings and adds a general pep in people's steps whenever they need it. 

And while American love to sip their cups of joe, it seems coffee has made its way into every other conceivable shape as well. A short list of java-flavored foods includes ice cream, nuts, yogurt, potato chips (remember Lay's Cappuccino flavored chips?), not to mention countless chocolates and candies (via Delish). If you can chew it, chances are, coffee has been added to it. And Americans eat it up. Yet, just when it seems this beloved morning beverage can't be spread any further, something unexpected else comes along.

My coffee does jiggle jiggle

Allow us to introduce coffee jelly, a cool, refreshing dessert that can be described simply as coffee-flavored gelatin. Think brown cubes of Jell-O. Haven't heard of it? Many probably haven't, although it has actually been around for quite some time. According to Vice, an early coffee jelly recipe dates back to "New Family Receipt Book," an English cookbook published in 1817. The dessert began making appearances in New England in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Vice suggests that due to the Plymouth Rock Gelatin Company, which was operating in Boston at the time. 

Though briefly popular in the Boston area, coffee jelly never really caught on throughout the rest of the country. However, the dessert became and still is well received in Japan, which may be in part due to Japan's 17th-century discovery of agar, a seaweed-based gelatinizing agent. In fact, according to Vice, Starbucks Japan introduced a coffee jelly Frappuccino in 2016 (via Sora News 24). Coffee jelly is also popular in Hawaii. Per Hawaii-based blog Onolicious Hawai'i, the dessert simply makes sense in the Aloha state, as amazing coffee is grown on the island and the cool dessert makes for a refreshing treat on hot, humid Hawaiian days.

There are endless ways to enjoy these coffee cubes

While available in the Aloha State, coffee jelly remains fairly unattainable to the rest of the country. To try this intriguing dessert, one may find themselves having to make it themselves, which is probably easier than you think. There are three basic ingredients involved: coffee, sugar, and gelatin. Epicurious explains that the gelatin is dissolved in hot water before being added to brewed coffee and sugar. Once boiled, the mixture is poured into glasses for serving or a large pan for cutting into cubes. It is chilled until solid and jiggly and topped with whipped cream. Voila, dessert is served. 

Variations and adjustments can be made, of course, such as the use of instant coffee, decaf coffee, and agar powder (for a vegan-friendly substitution to gelatin). The possibilities for serving coffee jelly are nearly limitless. Masterclass suggests using the jelly as an ice cream topping, in milk tea (think of the jelly as the tapioca balls or boba in Bubble tea), in iced coffee, or adding it to cool desserts such as tiramisu

However it is made or served, expect a sweet, refreshing pop of cool coffee flavor, with perhaps a jolt of caffeine for a pick-me-up. Seems there is yet another way to have your coffee and eat it, too.