Bolivian coca beer favorite of tourists

Bolivian coca beer favorite of tourists

LA PAZ - Agence France-Presse
Bolivian coca beer favorite of tourists

Visitors to cities like La Paz often rest and drink coca tea to deal with soroche but now their favorite is coca beer, made of the leaf used to make cocaine. AFP photo

A Bolivian brewer has come up with an innovative solution for quenching thirst and coping with altitude sickness: coca beer, based on the same leaf used to make cocaine.

Coca has only recently acquired its nefarious reputation: for millennia, people living along the Andes mountains have chewed coca leaves. The juice from the leaves has a mild stimulant effect, easing stomach pain and helping people from the lowlands cope with altitude sickness, known locally as soroche.
Visitors to high mountain cities like La Paz, located 3,600 meters above sea level, often rest and drink coca tea to deal with soroche. Now there is another option.

“As good Germans we love beer,” said Hamburg native Malina, who sipped her beer along with her traveling companion Timo. The friends are students in their late 20s traveling across South America.

“There are many types in Germany, but this coca beer is good because here in La Paz it helps us handle altitude sickness,” she said. The beer is in demand among tourists “who want to try something new,” said Alejandra Orihuela, owner of a bar named K’umara (“Healthy” in Aymara).

She said that a group of German and American tourists liked it so much they came by several times a day for their coca beer, “as if it were breakfast and lunch.” Coca beer has been produced since 2011 by Cerveceria Vicos, a brewery based in the southeastern city of Sucre.

“This is a highly fermented white beer with five percent alcohol content, unfiltered, unpasteurized, and has the moderate aroma, color and flavor of coca leaf and hops,” Vicos owner and manager Victor Escobar told AFP. He claims the beverage is an “energizing” tonic.