The Food Saga: The Drinks

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Welcome to my “Central and South America Food Saga“! The final chapter to this saga will, of course, be the drinks: after all, when it’s over 30C, you do drink a lot!

I’m not a beer drinker myself, but it seemed to be very cheap by Western standards. The most popular cerveza brands were Atlas in Panama, Imperial and Pilsen in Costa Rica, Quilmes in Argentina and Brahma in Brazil. The legal drinking age is 18 throughout South America and alcohol is sold pretty much anywhere, including supermarkets. The best wine we had was in Argentina, but Chile also has some nice ones.

As for soda, Coke and Pepsi are widely available (even in very remote places). In Peru, we were introduced to Inca Cola, a bubble-gum tasting drink, which is actually owned by Coke. What else is new… but the name is quite cool!

In the Andes, especially in Bolivia, mate de coca was a great option. It is basically a tea of coca leaves: as the Bolivians say, “la hoja de coca no es droga” (Coke leaf is not a drug). Maybe not a drug, but it is supposed to help with soroche, altitude sickness. I’m a big tea drinker, especially of green tea, and I did like the taste of the beverage.

In Brazil as well as in Central America, coconut water was a good option. It’s cheap, it’s supposed to help you sweat less, plus drinking directly from a coconut is kind of cool, isn’t it?

In Argentina and Uruguay, mate is the preferred beverage. Okay, let me rephrase that: locals are addicted to it! Mate is an infusion, prepared by steeping dried leaves of yerba mate in hot water. The beverage is drunk from a small calabash gourd (mate) using a metal straw (bombilla). It is necessary to carry hot water in a thermos to pour over the yerba periodically to refill. Mate is a social custom and is usually shared among friends or family: a first person start drinking, and then pass the gourd to another person, refill and then pass to another one etc. The beverage tastes of green tea and coffee, it’s quite strong at first but you get used to it. Argentinians and Uruguyans carry their gourd, bombilla and thermos absolutely everywhere, and it’s common to see people refilling their mate at the supermarket, at the bank, in the bus, at the movies… !

Perfect Coffee In Liberia, Costa Rica

Perfect Coffee In Liberia, Costa Rica

Drinking Coffee, Liberia, Costa Rica

Drinking Coffee, Liberia, Costa Rica

Brahma Beer, Santiago, Chile

Brahma Beer, Santiago, Chile

Atlas Beer, David, Panama

Atlas Beer, David, Panama

Inca Cola, Peru

Inca Cola, Peru

Mate De Coca, Bolivia

Mate De Coca, Bolivia

Inca Cola, Coke Zero, Lima Peru

Inca Cola, Coke Zero, Lima Peru

Coconuts, Parati, Brazil

Coconuts, Parati, Brazil

Mate De Coca Cups, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Mate De Coca Cups, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Mate De Coca Cups, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Mate De Coca Cups, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Coconuts, Panama Border

Coconuts, Panama Border

Coconuts, Copacabana, Brazil

Coconuts, Copacabana, Brazil

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

10 Comments

  1. I hope you are not running out of material. I would hate to see this end. I have never tried mate but would like to. I think I told you that I found Mexican coconut water in a can and liked it. When you drink from a fresh coconut what happens to the coconut meat inside? Do you chip it out and eat it? Is it wasted, recycled, unripe and inedible? Inquiring minds want to know.

  2. Its nice to know about the various drinks available around the world, and of course its even greater to have a chance to taste them.
    All the drinks mentioned are new to me, except for coconut water, and of course Coke and Pepsi. Young coconut water is widely available in my country especially during the warm season. Its not advisable to drink it during rainy season as you can easily get cold. Coconut water is also used traditionally here to cure measles.
    If I had a chance, I like to see the metal straw, bombilla.
    Btw, you look great in the blue dress.

  3. Oh, you need to take me drinking with you next time.

    I’m wondering if you’ve tried malta. It’s popular in Cuba and here in South Florida.

    PS – You take THE BEST photographs, Chica! Chin-chin! 😉

  4. @sir jorge – Thank you!

    @Soleil – Inca Cola is not that great to be honest!

    @Bill Miller – There isn’t much meat in these green coconuts for some reason. I think there is another kind of coconut, a brown one, which has all the meat. This one is basically discarded after you drink.

    @Bluefish – It takes some times to get used to I think.

    @Khengsiong – The straw has a filtering end, which is basically bigger and has holes 😉

    @Sidney – Thank you!

    @zunnur – Thank you! Coconut is quite exotic to me but I guess it is popular under the tropics.

    @Scarlet – Malta… no. Just mate but I don’t think it’s the same thing.

  5. Great post…but the part I liked best are the amazing pictures you took! The coconuts on the Panama border look different…not sure why they have hacked the skin off completely.

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