High In the Sky

After a quick, but great night’s sleep in our Lima B & B, we had our “first taste” of Perù – breakfast.

The subtle sounds of breakfast preparation summoned us to a private dining table set for 4.   In the kitchen, a Peruvian woman, the B & B’s wife, made us eggs to order and brought us a heaping plate of to-die-for bread. Bowls of fresh fruit – cut pineapple and cantaloupe- were set at each plate (prior to travel, we’d been told only to eat cleaned, peeled fruit to avoid getting sick.) In the center of the table, a ramekin full of butter, a wooden bowl with miniature wooden spoons for salt & pepper, and a ceramic container of packaged teas were offered.

Our Peruvian hostess only spoke Spanish, so Logan translated for us,

¿café o té?

Coffee or tea?

Choosing tea, I began to look through the tea packages, as the hostess poured hot water into my cup:

“Mate de Coca, gracias.”


Having read about coca tea before arriving in Perù, I was glad to see it on the table.  In the comfort of the private Peruvian table and with the guidance of our Peruvian hostess, I made my first cup of coca tea. I placed a tea bag in the tea cup full of boiling water, let it steep for 3 mins and then took a sip. Appearing and tasting quite like green tea, my American Starbuck’s go-to, the coca tea was good!

In Peru, coca tea is used as a cure for altitude sickness, and although Lima is at sea level, the Andes mountain villages have 11,000 + ft elevations.  It’s thought that coca tea “takes the edge off” high altitude symptoms.

As my Perùvian travels continued, I found that coca tea is served everywhere in Perù- on the airlines, in remote villages, on Peruvian Rail, in hotel lobbies, and on most tables.  It is available in tea bags, but more often, I saw it served in leaf form.  Coca leaves, loose in baskets or bowls, were on almost all the counters and tables.

1  handful of coca leaves

1 C. hot water

Let steep for 3-5 mins and then drink

The high altitude herbal remedy did its job. No nausea, no headaches, no problems.

I left coca tea in Perù, but coca tea will linger with me –

a reminder of surviving the Andes –

way up high in the sky!


 “Coca tea”

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