This Typical Tea From the Latin American Andes Is a Beautiful and Misunderstood Tradition

Té de Coca o Mate de Coca

Image courtesy of Nuestro Stories.

We aren’t sure exactly what it is, but there is something about our culture’s deep love of drinks that gives us a little extra burst of energy throughout the day. 

While I can’t speak for everyone, I can say that my tio was spoon-feeding me sips of cafecito by the time I was four. By the time I was 8, I knew how to brew the perfect cup just the way he liked it. 

In the same vein, plenty of places in Latin America have a delicious and energetic alternative to the dark roast of coffee. 

Coca tea, for example 

Te de Coca, or Mate de Coca, is a simple herbal tea infusion in which the fresh (or dried) leaves of the coca plant are steeped in hot water until the properties are extracted. 

The leaves are then strained out, and the rest is consumed quickly while the liquid is still hot. 

The flavor of the te de coca is similar to green tea, yet it has a form of its own natural sweetness that makes the taste a little less bitter and requires very few additions, such as sugar, for flavor. 

Coca leaves are especially popular in South America. However, its use is discouraged in many other regions and outlawed entirely in America, as the properties of the leaf (when alkalized) are the foundational ingredients for cocaine. 

Of course, the leaves themselves do not have the same properties as the drug cocaine and are considered medicinal throughout the Andes and other areas. 

Like marijuana, peyote, and many other traditional herbal remedies that have been criminalized, Coca tea is a beautiful tradition, even if it is misunderstood by many.

Share This Story!

Follow Us

Stay In Touch

Olivia Monahan Chicana journalist, editor, educator, and organizer in Sacramento whose sole focus is to shed light on stories on our most impacted and marginalized communities, but even more importantly, for those stories to humanize those normally left out. She is an Ida B Wells Investigative Journalism Fellow 2022 Finalist, a member of the Parenting Journalists Society, and has bylines in The Courier, The Sacramento Bee, The Americano, Submerge Magazine among others.