Herbal Liqueur, Anyone? The Coca Leaf’s Central Role in Modern-Day Digestifs

Very popular these days, herbal liqueurs can trace their origins to medicinal use. When the home herbalist and farmer create uniquely tonic and vibrant combinations from fresh ingredients, the beauty of the liqueur presents itself. Among the wide range of liqueur varieties, the coca leaf liqueur rises to the top of trending digestifs.

Coca leaf liqueurs include a variety of botanicals but most notably include the coca leaf – yes, the same coca leaf from which cocaine derives. While the coca plant is mostly known for its psychoactive alkaloid, cocaine, the coca leaf is increasingly gaining notoriety for its role in herbal liqueurs.

Modern-Day (Coca) Liqueur: Once a Digestif, Now a Cocktail

While liqueurs have traditionally served as digestifs, nowadays they are served with mixers such as Redbull. Renowned for its unique and great taste, coca leaf herbal liqueur also infuses a secret energy to drinks and cocktails. As the name suggests, digestif’s main purpose in the past was to aid in digestion. As a result, digestifs are known for a touch of sweetness, as well as for a higher alcohol percentage, both of which help our bodies settle a meal. Thus, the coca leaf herbal liqueur creates sugary-tasting alcoholic beverages.

Bolivian Coca Leaf as an Ingredient Versus a Drug

Coming a long way from the coca leaf ingredient-inspired Coca-Cola of the nineteenth century, coca leaf liqueurs strip out the cocaine. Among many exported coca leaf products, liqueurs bring legitimacy to the coca crop. Cultivated in the medium-altitude areas of the Bolivian Andes since the time of the Incas at the latest, the coca leaf plant is a tea-like shrub, which is light weight for farmers. Since the 1980s, cultivation expanded to the Chapare and Cochabamba regions, which are located in valleys of Bolivia, in part due to the rise in popularity of cocaine, as well as its ability to produce four crops per year.

Legitimizing Coca Leaf Production for Bolivia and Its Farmers

Widely accepted as harmless in Bolivia, the coca plant crop is seen as a means to perk up the country’s economy. Full of vitamins and minerals, coca is considered the equivalent to coffee in Bolivia as far as its stimulant effects are concerned. Shared widely in Bolivia, the vision to expand the international market for legal coca products, including herbal liqueur, tea, and ointments has met with international resistance.
During 2019, the final year of Evo Morales’ government, coca cultivation jumped 10% in Bolivia. While the coca leaf is the raw material for cocaine, it is also the anchor to Indigenous life in the Andean nation where millions chew coca leaves and drink coca tea as part of religious rituals. Coca cultivation will increase in the producing regions because there are lower levels of voluntary eradication to control surplus crops, a practice that was temporarily suspended in March, 2020.
Prices for the leaf in some regions of South America have fallen as much as 73 percent due to the pandemic. And after President Evo Morales’s departure at the end of 2019, a rightwing, anti-coca government is in charge of Bolivia.

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