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Coca Peruvian Tea

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

The coca tea can be found in the Andes region, one of the highest mountainous regions in the world. Coca tea is said to prevent altitude sickness. It is made with raw coca leaves and hot water. The taste is similar to green tea, an acquired taste! Although it has not been proven as to how effective it is, nobody would blame you for trying it to avoid altitude sickness. After all, it has been used for thousands of years among the indigenous people of the Andes, not causing any harm in fact is said to be beneficial for your health.

A mug of Peruvian Coca Leaf Peruvian tea, sat on a colourful Peruvian table cover.
Traditional Coca Leaf Peruvian Tea ©MDHarding

Coca Peruvian Tea

History of Coca

The origins of coca date back over 4,000 years to Bolivia, Peru and Columbia. Some say there is a record of it dating back to the Valdivian culture 3000 BC. The first European explorers of the 16th century took note of its cultivation and medicinal purposes. The raw leaves are used to extract the substance to make cocaine and without the plant, cocaine would not exist. Did you know that coca leaves were once used as ingredients of Coca-Cola?

Traditional Inca Mural showing life celebrations and rituals with a gold sun shield ornament.
Traditional Inca Mural, Peru ©MDHarding

Coca Today

The coca comes from the Erythroxylum plant, which there are over 100 different species of tree.

Don't be confused, it may be an ingredient of cocaine, but still, coca leaves are perfectly legal to buy in Peru. But it is illegal in most of the neighboring countries, so don't carry coca leaves with you when leaving Peru and entering another country.

Vantage view over Machu Picchu, Peru.
Machu Picchu, Peru ©MDHarding

It is said that a coca plant still grows in the Royal Garden at Machu Picchu.

Last Tea Stop Before Highest Point

If booking on to a private tour the stop is a lovely one, surrounded by Vicuna. There is also the opportunity to purchase handmade textiles and other gifts. Did you know that the textiles are still coloured using natural dyes from flowers, seeds and fruits?

One of the highest points in Peru landscape with snow capped mountain, small lake and herd of vicuna.
Herd of Vicuna In The Pervian Landscape ©MDHarding

Colca Canyon, Peru

Colca Lodge Spa and Hot Springs is a beautiful place to stay and explore, while also located near to Colca Canyon. Although this wasn't situated at the highest altitude on our Peruvian trip, it was up until that day. I must say I did feel a little worse for wear, maybe I should have had more tea! (the altitude sickness came on quite quickly with the most severe headache, something even the most traveled can be struck down with). Please do seek advice and get assistance if needed, I was very British not wanting to complain. I think I could have had a whiff of oxygen and been right as rain to enjoy the wonderful surroundings, not to mention the relaxing hot springs.

Vantage point of Colca Canyon Lodge, surrounded by agricultural terraces.
Colca Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs ©MDHarding

Highest Vantage Point

The highest vantage point is - Mirador de los Andes Tramo de la Cordillera Volcanica en los Andes Centrales at 4910m above sea level.

It is recommended not to stay at this level for any significant amount of time.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about this different kind of tea. I would love to hear from you. Have you tried coca tea on your travels or perhaps you are visiting Peru and have a question? Email:

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