Coca tea, anyone? …….
what? Yes my dears readers, relax. I know what you are thinking – Did you ever
heard about the coca tea plant, also called mate de coca? well, Mate de Coca is
a tisane (herbal tea) made using the leaves of the coca plant; typically the
raw leaves of the plant. It is made either by submerging the coca leaf or
dipping a tea bag in hot water. Simple!
Coca , Erythroxylum coca is a plant in the family Erythroxylaceae, native to north-western South America. The first mention found on the leaf, was one made by Father Tomas Ortiz, and later on many more chroniclers will mention the leaf starting with the cartographer and explorer Americo Vespucci.
The Incas regarded coca as the divine plant, mainly because of its ability to impart “endurance”, and its use was entwined with every aspect of life, art, mythology, and the economy of the Incan Empire. Coca is best known throughout the world because of its alkaloids, which include Cocaine, a powerful stimulant. The earliest coca leaves were discovered in the Huaca Prieta settlement c. 2500 – 1800 BC in the northern coast of Peru, positive proof that the natives of South America were using coca for a series of purposes fmore than our thousand, five hundred years. All pre-Columbian cultures in the Andes have left evidence of usage these leaves. Similarly, there is ample evidence that coca was one of the oldest domestic use plants in the New World. Its e extends over an area which includes Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. Andeans chew coca just as they do everything else; ritually, deliberately, and systematically, yet never has a plant been so misrepresented and its use so controlled by prejudice and ignorance, clearly including up to the present day.
The coca plant has been used in ‘both indigenous medicine and cultural rituals’ as the coca possesses an abundance of healing and nutritional qualities. The coca plant has also been used by locals, as well as since the time of indigenous ancestry, to enhance stamina and endurance. Even today, distances are measured in ‘cocadas’, how far an Indian carries his load under the stimulus of one chew of coca. The refining of the coca plant into cocaine is not an indigenous use of the plant. The isolation, extraction and potency magnification of the original plant alkaloids to the point of toxicity is not the way this plant has been traditionally used throughout South American history. The coca plant is a cultural treasure of South America. But, as everybody knows, revered as the coca is, the plant is also one of the most illicit drugs that the War on Drugs is raging against.