Have a thirst for a real native experience? While traveling in Peru, stop at a house displaying a red flag on a long pole. There you can join the locals in a glass of chicha, an ancient Andean drink made from fermented corn.
The strange-tasting drink, yellowish in color with a bubbly froth, is
served warm for just a few coins, and is quite strong. It is not usually
found in restaurants (a similar drink, chicha morada, made from blue
corn, is sweet and sold everywhere like a soft-drink), but is sold by
individuals, usually in the lower socioeconomic bracket, who have passed
down the traditional recipes since pre-Inca times.
Recently, in the mountaintop city of Cerro Baul in southern Peru, archeologists
from the University of Chicago unearthed remains of an ancient brewery
dating back to the Wari Empire (AD 600-1000). It is believed that the
brewery was used to produce massive amounts of chicha, which was used
both for ritual purposes and festivities.
The ruins indicate that the last gathering at this brewery ended with
a ritual burning of the entire facility. As the Wari’s threw their
cups into the fire, the beams and thatched roof collapsed, leaving what
was underneath in very good condition. Scientists have found remains
of fire pits and fifteen-gallon ceramic vats.
The first step in preparing the chicha is boiling the fruits and grains
(now corn) with water. After boiling, the liquid is transferred to fermenting
jars and is ready in two weeks. It must be consumed soon after—it
does not have a shelf life!
So, join your Peruvian neighbors in a glass of chicha, if you dare, and
carry on the ancient tradition.
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