Yes, that coca leaf (not to be confused with cocoa)
Besides coffee beans and junk trinkets, one thing I absolutely wanted to bring back was some Colombian coca tea leaves. It makes for a great souvenir and an even better conversation piece. The coca tea leaf is derived from the same plant that is used for cocaine production. Although the active ingredient, alkaloid, is much lesser in coca tea leaves than it is in cocaine, it is still a mild stimulant.
The coca plant is sacred to the region. Many locals consider the leaf as medicinal rather than the associated stigma that it is up north. It is said to have many health benefits including; boosting energy, a painkiller, helps with altitude sickness, stomach aches, and can control appetite.
After going through several tours around Colombia, my last tour guide directed me to Taller de Te where I can find organic coca tea. This place is a hidden gem tucked away on a small hilly road. The owner, a sweet lady, who spoke to my friend and me for 30 minutes about tea, coffee, and its origins. Although I was busy trying to check into my flight, I did catch a few pointers on brewing and consumption.
Brewing and Consumption
- Taking some leaves and chewing on them. Depending on the amount, this method can give you a slight buzz and cause your mouth to go numb.
- Traditional hot brewing tea. The direction was to take a small palm full for a cup of tea. Pour over boiling water and wait a few minutes for it to brew.
- Cold brewing coca leaves as seen below. Take a handful of leaves and place into pitcher. Pour over the water and let it sit overnight. Here is my first attempt at cold brewing coca tea.
Coca tea will cause you to fail a drug test.
Needless to say for the few idiots out there, do not drink it if you need to perform a drug test. Coca tea leaves are also illegal in the United States. Smuggle back at your own risk. I had no issues going through customs at LAX, however, I suggest using the Mobile Passport app(found in both app stores) to avoid the general customs lines. The mobile passport line had one agent and no travelers.
Coca leaf tea vs coffee
In terms of strength, I believe I get more energy from a cup of coffee. However, you won’t get a slight buzz of mouth-numbing from chewing on coffee grounds.
Where can you get coca leaf / Colombian coca tea:
Taller de Te – Calle 60a # 3d 32, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
Read about my adventures in Colombia here.