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Sampling Peruvian Brand Leaf Tea
Erythroxylum novogranatense var. trujillense
by Hypersphere
Citation:   Hypersphere. "Sampling Peruvian Brand Leaf Tea: An Experience with Erythroxylum novogranatense var. trujillense (exp50608)". Aug 7, 2009.

  oral Erythroxylum novogranatense (tea)


I was recently in Peru and took the opportunity to sample the coca leaf tea, which is legal in Peru and is served literally everywhere. In fact, most hotels automatically put coca tea out with the breakfast teas and coffees. The idea is that Coca tea is supposed to help us poor oxygen deprived tourists adapt to the high Andean elevations.

There are four different varieties of the coca plant. The 'typical' coca plant is Erythroxylum coca var. coca, which is native to cloud forests of the Andes at elevations around 1500 metres and is the principle source of illegal cocaine production. Another variety, E. coca var. ipadu, is grown by some tribes in the Amazon rainforest, and contains about a quarter of the cocaine content of E. coca var. coca. Most commercially produced coca tea is made out of the species Erythroxylum novogranatense, a variety of coca plant that was adapted to higher and drier elevations through long-term cultivation by the Incas and pre-Inca civilizations. The variety E. novogranatense var. trujillense is grown in the region of Trujillense, Peru, and is the source of commercial coca leaf for coca tea and also as a flavouring (this is where Coca-Cola gets its coca leaf).

Chemical studies on trujillense variety coca tea has indicated the presence of 18 alkaloids, principally cocaine but also with large amounts of the compound methyl-salicyclate which is closely related to aspirin and increases the medicinal properties of the leaf. The average one gram tea bag yields about 6 milligrams of total alkaloids of which about 4 milligrams is cocaine. Coca leaf is also high in calcium.

There are two commonly available types of coca tea containing the leaves of E. novogranatense var. trujillense in Peru. One is 'Herbi' brand Mate de Coca which comes in a nice green package with three coca leaves on the front. The other is 'Delisse' brand Mate de Coca, an orange package which explains on the back in both Spanish and English that coca tea is 'restorative and energetic; excellent for diet; digestive; anti-diarrheac action; acts against fatigue and altitude sickness; relieves tiredness of voice; regulates the metabolism of carbohydrate'. I found the effects from Herbi brand coca tea more noticeable, possibly because these tea bags contain 1.0 grams rather than just 0.8 grams as in Delisse tea bags. I have also seen Windsor brand Mate de Coca which I believe is produced in Bolivia. In more traditional communities many people grow their own coca plants for chewing and for tea, and these plants are often E. coca var. coca.

The tea itself, when steeped, is a light yellow-green colour with a faint scent of freshly mown hay. The taste is 'green' and quite pleasant. The effects are very mild, I find them less noticeable than the effects of tea or coffee. There is a mild stimulation and energized feeling, and I don't feel very hungry. It also works very well to get rid of headaches. The effects seem to last between one and two hours.

I also tried chewing both coca leaf from a Herbi brand tea bag. At the time I was walking alone in the Amazon rainforest, and as I held the slightly bitter leaves in my cheek I began to feel a very edgy, jittery sort of awareness. My senses seemed heightened, and I noticed every little sound around me. Occasionally a bird or animal would move or fly away, and the noise would make my heart pound. I kept looking all around me rapidly, and shafts of sunlight seemed more bright and glaring than they had before. My cheek also felt a bit numbed, as if I had been to the dentist. I felt strongly stimulated for about half an hour. The feeling was similar to a strong dose of caffeine.

Exp Year: 2006ExpID: 50608
Gender: Male 
Age at time of experience: Not Given 
Published: Aug 7, 2009Views: 19,186
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Erythroxylum novogranatense (494) : Retrospective / Summary (11), Not Applicable (38)

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