in honor of our virtual tea party, i thought i'd write about a common andean beaverage: coca tea (mate de coca). the coca leaf has been used for centuries to help with the high altitude, provide more energy for work, and cure upset stomachs. many people more used to hearing about refined powder cocaine or the even more stigmatized crack cocaine are concerned when first offered a cup of coca tea. is it addictive? will i feel high? the truth is that one would have to drink hundreds and hundreds cups of coca tea to feel the same effect as one does when using one of her more potent siblings. yes, coca tea can be addictive and one can feel its effects, but pretty much in the same ways as caffeinated teas.
i like hot coca tea made from a tea bag. the flavor is subtle and the color of the tea is a pretty light yellow. more concentrated forms of coca tea are a different story. before going to the colca canyon, it was suggested that we make some coca tea with tea leaves in a big bottle of water (the leaves were left to soak in the water over night). this is what i ended up with:
i will admit, however, that this concoction did help me with altitude sickness and also helped the sore throat i had at the time. nonetheless, i never plan on drinking coca tea this potent ever again, nor do i plan on chewing on coca leaves, the most traditional way the leaves are used.
i will be bringing some coca tea bags to the tea party so you can all try the lighter and more delicious version of this drink. but right now, i'm off to make myself a nice cup of chai. :)