Coca is a rare (and somewhat taboo) treat in North America, so I was stoked to find whole coca tea leaves for such a reasonable price. I’m no stranger to a good cuppa coca, but have never tried the whole leaf before.
In the Andes, coca is chewed, eaten and brewed as a tea for its medicinal effects. Unlike coffee, it doesn’t leave the user feeling jittery or moody. It provides a smooth, clear-headed stimulation while improving circulation at high altitudes where it grows naturally. Coca contains trace amounts of cocaine (gasp!) along with many other healthy alkaloids, minerals and phytochemicals that give it a unique kick.
During a particularly busy work week, I decided to replace my morning espresso with a mouthful of coca leaves to put its powers to the test. I grabbed a handful of leaves, crushed them with a mortar and pestle and shoved them between my gums and lower lip. A pinch of baking soda and we’re off!
The flavor is what you’d expect from a leafy green plant: bitter with a hint of chlorophyll. After about 10 minutes, a distinct numbness had crept across the right side of my face. Along with this sensation came a laser-like mental focus and visual acuity I haven’t experienced since getting LASIK. The world looked shiny and new, with a little more sparkle. No physical stimulation was noted, which was a stark contrast to my usual espresso-induced jitters. But my motivation to work and ability to organize my thoughts was noticeably enhanced.
Overall, I was very satisfied with my coca leaf experience. It’s a benign plant with a lot to offer, but I think I’ll stick with good ol’ black coffee for my physically demanding job. Coca is better suited for studying, office work or other forms of mental labor. I plan to try a larger dose next time to see how far I can push it. For all the hype, coca is one of the mildest “drugs” around.
Overall Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars