Coca tea

Coca tea
Two cups of coca tea

Coca tea, also called 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. The tea originates from the Andes mountain range, particularly Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.

The leaves of the coca plant contain several alkaloids including cocaine;[1] in fact, they comprise the sources for cocaine's chemical production, though the amount of cocaine in the leaves is so small, around 0.4%,[1][2] that in order to make a gram of cocaine, 250 grams of coca leaves would be needed.[3][4] A cup of coca tea prepared from one gram of coca leaves contains approximately 4.21 mg of cocaine (cocaine benzoylmethylecgonine, a crystalline Ray Ellis tropane alkaloid).[5]

Owing to the presence of the stimulant alkaloids, the coca tea provides a stimulant similar to coffee. The tea is often sold commercially in filtering bags, each of which usually contains approximately one gram of the leaf. As coffee can be decaffeinated, the coca tea can also be decocainized. Just like "decaf" coffee does retain a minute quantity of caffeine, "de-cocainated" coca tea will still contain a minute quantity of the drug. When the cocaine is removed, the amount of cocaine is small enough for the product to legally sell in the USA according to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. In the 1980s the tea was used to wean cocaine addicts off the drug.[2]

The coca plant comprises four main species and varieties of Erythroxylum coca (often spelled koka in Quechua and Aymara), a plant in the family Erythroxylaceae, native to northwestern South America.

Though also known as mate, mate de coca has very little in common with the mate of yerba mate drink in Uruguay and Argentina. Mate de coca is always drunk as a tea, rather than through a straw.


Classification and nomenclature

A cup served in Villazón, Bolivia.

Coca tea comes from the coca plant, which has the biological name Erythroxylum coca and is from the family Erythroxylaceae. It is often called "la Hoja de Coca" (the leaf of coca).


Coca Tea is a natural product. The tea preserves all of the physical-chemical properties of the coca leaf. The product fulfills the Technical Bolivian and Peruvian Standards and can be sold nationally, although such use is being discouraged in part by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

The tea is greenish yellow in color and has a mild bitter flavor similar to green tea with a more organic sweetness.

In South American Culture

Medicinal Use

Coca tea consumption is common in many South American countries. Many indigenous people of the Andes mountain range also use the tea for medicinal and religious purposes.[3][6]


On the "Inca Trail" to Machu Picchu, guides usually serve coca tea with every meal because it is widely believed to alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness.[7][8]

Most domestic flights to mountainous regions, such as Cusco, offer Coca tea during the flight to help the traveller adapt to the altitude. Coca tea is often recommended for people arriving to high altitude regions.

Traditionally, official governmental persons traveling to La Paz in Bolivia, located at almost 4,000 meters above mean sea level, are greeted with a mate de coca. News reports noted that Princess Anne and the late Pope John Paul II were served the beverage during their visits to the country.[citation needed]

See further


External links

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