Mate de coca

Mate de coca

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

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]


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

Coca tea is legal in Peru, Bolivia, 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

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

  • Coca-Cola, an international soft drink which now contains no cocaine
  • Coca Colla, a similar Bolivian drink but which still contains cocaine
  • Cocoroco, a very strong Bolivian alcoholic beverage
  • Triple 3x Coca Tea, an energy drink made in Caracas from natural coca leaves

References