Sunday, November 2, 2008

Coca Tea

It's true what they say... that hemp bearing 9 bar was a gateway drug, driving me further and further along a path of depravity, bringing me here to coca tea.

coca tea

Coca tea, or mate de coca, is an infusion enjoyed throughout South America, particularly in the Andes, and is made from the leaves of the dreaded coca plant from which one can extract cocaine if one is so inclined. But the cocaine is present only in very small amounts, approximately 0.2% of the weight... still, due to a zero tolerance policy at work, I ask you all to please refrain from telling my boss.

In late September we embarked upon a trip to Peru and were greeted with an unlimited supply of coca tea as soon as we reached the hotel in Cusco. It is a bold yellow in color, much like the Peruvian Inca Cola soft drink or urine after a vitamin B supplement, and best served warm like the latter. The pungent aroma gives hints of fresh cut grass, spinach, and boiled brussels sprouts. The taste doesn't differ much from the scent and can be simultaneously odd yet appealing.

coca tea dispenser

Purported to help with the effects of altitude sickness and to have a stimulant effect similar to coffee, coca tea is said to be the secret strength behind the incredibly impressive porters who lug tourists' heavy bags along the mountainous Inca trail for days on end.

I was ill-prepared to properly ascertain the effects at first. Sleep deprivation and the sudden arrival at high altitude rendered my mind a dizzy muddle and the tea didn't seem to aid in my alertness. Despite repeated experiments throughout our stay in Peru, I wasn't able to get any meaningful effects from the tea and gave up for the king of stimulant brews, coffee. I did notice that my eyes became drier and red and that my blood vessels felt constricted, which is a physiological mechanisms of the cocaine, but I had no numbness, no "energy" boost, nor anything else of the sort. Perhaps if I'd tried pouring the tea in through my nostrils...

coca tea cup

Being that the coca leaf is a big part of the native Andean culture, no visit to Peru would be complete without drinking of coca tea or chewing a quid of coca leaves, just don't try bring back over the borders. Even though the cocaine is present in very small amounts, your ass could still end up in jail. And why risk it when, as far as I'm concerned, you'd be much better off sipping a latte and chewing on some chocolate covered coffee beans?

No comments: