Peru Travel Blog: A taste of…Coca Tea‏

Its the taste!!

The coca plant is probably most commonly known for providing the leaves that are then processed with numerous chemicals to produce cocaine.  Made from fresh leaves of the coca plant, Coca Tea is a herbal drink, totally legal in Peru as are all coca leaves (it is only when processed into cocaine it becomes illegal).  It is a mainstay in Cusco and is often used to combat altitude sickness and stomach complaints – almost a herbal cure all.  Given it’s more famous produce I couldn’t help feeling like I was being daring and naughty by trying it.  I had read that drinking too much could stop you from sleeping and make you “wired”, but I hardly intended drinking gallons of it.

 My welcome drink at my hotel in Cusco was a mug of Coca Tea.  To call it a rustic version of tea would be too polite.  As far as I could tell the guy just threw some dried coca leaves (not even dried and crushed to resemble tea: just leaves) into the mug and topped it up with hot water.  Add a spoon to allow me to mash it and there you go!  It doesn’t look too great when you get it…

 It smelled and tasted a bit like a cross between green and camomile tea.  I’m not a big fan of tea in any form, but this actually was quite nice and I think the fact that it was leaves, rather than tea leaves (if that makes sense) made it seem more palatable for me as it no longer resembled “proper” tea.  At first I felt no buzz, but then I don’t think I had mashed it enough.  Once I had finished I did feel a slight buzz from it.  Not enough to be climbing the walls, but more like a feeling of being a bit more alert and ready for the day ahead.  It peps you up a bit and I could see how drinking a lot of it might affect you.  I pretty much had a cup or two of coca tea every day until I reached the rainforest and it was no longer available.

 Curiously coca plants struggle to grow at altitude, although there is a very well looked after one at Mach Picchu, and it is transported from the lower lying regions to the high.  It was also used heavily in Incan times, but chewed rather than made into tea, but I will come to that later…

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