Mate de Coca or Coca Leaf Tea is a brew of leaves from the locally grown coca shrub. Well the same coca leaves are used to make cocaine - so it's no small wonder that this herb has been attributed medicinal properties from a cure for altitude sickness to a anti-depressant.
Mate de coca is served at breakfast, lunch and dinner as a regular beverage all over Peru. Containing trace amounts of cocaine, drinking of this tea will help blood circulation and hence alleviate the symtoms caused by high alltitude.
Coca leaves are steeped in hot water for a few minutes and the resulting brew (sans leaves) is drunk like regular tea. Sugar can be added since the mate tends to be on the bitter side of the taste spectrum.
These leaves can also be chewed but beware, you can get spiked on it!
Throughout the Sacred Valley, you will see small businesses and private homes with red flags or balloons hanging on a stick outside the building. These flags indicate that this home or store brews and sells chicha. Chicha is a popular local drink which is fermented maize beer that is served warm. You will also see chicha for sale at some markets.
Although I was curious, I did not try it. At the markets, it is served in a glass out of a jug and you drink it right there. This glass is reused for the next customer (although it is rinsed out in a bucket of water in between).
Chicha is a corn beer with a modest alcohol content. Each kind of corn (and they have many) gives the chicha a little different taste. The one I tried had a flavor almost like a mild cider--I liked it. Some places also offer chicha mixed with strawberry juice--I preferred it plain.
Establishments have a flag--or even a ball of colored plastic--on a pole to show that they have chicha ready to serve.
A Pisco Sour is a cocktail containing pisco (8 parts), lemon or lime juice (4 parts), egg whites 1, simple syrup (3 parts), and bitters 1 dash. All but the bitters are shaken vigorously and the bitters are added to the resultant foam as a garnish.
Pisco is a colorless or yellowish-to-amber colored grape brandy produced in winemaking regions of Peru and Chile. It is said to have originated from the prohibition of producing wine from grapes introduced by the Spahish.
Peruvian home brew- I didnt like it, but tried it. Somewhat thick & white, served in a big glass. Look for houses on the roadside with little red flags- this means they brew chicha. Drop by and ask for a glass....but remember drinking & driving- so be careful. Chicha is used in ceramonies and consumed by locals.
The local beer of Cusco is Cuscuena and one of the country's very best. It went well with the local spicy foods and sunny arid climate.
Coca Tea is a famous drink in the Andes. It is made by boiling Coca leaves. It is used to reduce the effects of altitude sickness which can be helpful in Cuzco since its over 10,000 ft up.
Inca Kola is Peru's version of Coca Cola and it is really good it has a kind of bubble gum like flavor but is hard to describe.