Coca tea

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Two cups of coca tea

Coca tea, also called mate de coca, is a tisane (herbal tea) made using the (typically raw) leaves of the coca plant, which is native to South America. It is made either by submerging the coca leaf or dipping a tea bag in hot water. The tea is most commonly consumed in the Andes mountain range, particularly Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. It is greenish yellow in color and has a mild bitter flavor similar to green tea with a more organic sweetness.

Though also known as mate, mate de coca has very little in common with the yerba mate drink in Uruguay and Argentina.

Alkaloid content and stimulant properties[edit]

The leaves of the coca plant contain alkaloids which--when extracted chemically--are the source for cocaine base. However, the amount of coca alkaloid in the raw leaves is small. A cup of coca tea prepared from one gram of coca leaves (the typical contents of a tea bag) contains approximately 4.2 mg of organic coca alkaloid.[1] (In comparison, a line of cocaine contains between 20 and 30 milligrams.[2]) Owing to the presence of these alkaloids, coca tea is a mild stimulant; its consumption may be compared to consumption of coffee or tea.[3] The coca alkaloid content of coca tea is such that the consumption of one cup of coca tea can cause a positive result on a drug test for cocaine, however.[1]

A cup served in Villazón, Bolivia

Similar to decaffeination in coffee, coca tea can be decocainized.[4] Just like decaffeinated coffee does retain a minute quantity of caffeine, decocainized coca tea will still contain a minute quantity of organic coca alkaloids.[4]

Legal status[edit]

Coca tea is legal in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Ecuador.[5][6] However, its use is being discouraged in part by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Coca tea is illegal in the United States unless it is decocainized.[4]

Medicinal and traditional uses[edit]

Many Andean indigenous peoples use the tea for medicinal purposes.[7]

Coca tea is often recommended for travelers in the Andes to prevent altitude sickness.[8] However, its actual effectiveness has never been systematically studied.[8]

Coca tea has been used to wean cocaine addicts off the drug.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Jenkins AJ, Llosa T, Montoya I, Cone EJ (1996). "Identification and quantitation of alkaloids in coca tea.". Forensic Sci Int 77 (3): 179–89. PMC 2705900. PMID 8819993. 
  2. ^ Jerome J. Platt (2000). Cocaine Addiction: Theory, Research and Treatment. Harvard University Press. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-674-00178-7. 
  3. ^ Jim Shultz; Melissa Draper (2008). Dignity and Defiance: Stories from Bolivia's Challenge to Globalization. University of California Press. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-520-25699-6. 
  4. ^ a b c Amitava Dasgupta (2010). Beating Drug Tests and Defending Positive Results: A Toxicologist's Perspective. Springer. p. 106. ISBN 978-1-60761-526-2. 
  5. ^ Matthew Garrahan (June 18, 2010). "When Hugo met Oliver". Financial Times Magazine. 
  6. ^ Richard K. Ries; Shannon C. Miller; David A. Fiellin (2009). Principles of Addiction Medicine. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-7817-7477-2. 
  7. ^ Substances that produce addictionUniversity of Buenos Aires (Spanish).
  8. ^ a b Andrew M. Luks, et al. "Wilderness Medical Society Consensus Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Acute Altitude Illness". Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, 21, 146–155 (2010).
  9. ^ Ronald K. Siegel (2005). Intoxication: The Universal Drive For Mind-Altering Substances. Inner Traditions * Bear & Company. p. 297. ISBN 978-1-59477-069-2.