The tradition behind the popular ‘Chicha de Yucca’
Throughout the Ecuadorian Amazon, there is an ancient custom of drinking a powerful beverage that empowers men with great vitality before leaving home to the deep Amazon Rainforest. Aboriginal tribes say this food helps them work, walk and even hunt from sunrise until noon, when they take some time to drink it again. This is an ancestral brew that nourishes their body and soul. This mystical drink is sometimes made of plantain, chonta, corn and the most popular version is the one made of cassava (yucca or manioc).
The reason why chicha is usually made from cassava is because its roots are very starchy, and therefore the saliva enzymes rapidly convert the starch into simple sugar, which is further converted by wild yeast or bacteria into alcohol. After some hours, the juice gets fermented in a bowl, the result is a slightly sweetened and sour ‘chicha de Yucca’ that is similar in appearance to skim milk.
To this beverage, women put the staple on fire to boil in a large pot of water covered with some banana leaves. Cooking time mostly depends on the amount of heat applied to the pot. However, it usually takes between twenty to thirty minutes to cook. While the yucca boils, the ‘batan’ a small wooden artifact is softly cleaned.
Once ready, the steaming roots are poured into it and smashed with a big wooden pestle, in order to get a consistent paste. Then, women put a small portion of this warm preparation in their mouths to chew it for a few minutes and spit it back in the batan. The main purpose of this process is to help the paste of manioc become smooth and mushy. Good tip: the longer the preparation is left, the stronger the beverage will be, because the enzymes help the starch to turn into alcohol.
Nowadays, the ‘Chicha de Yucca’ or cassava remains locals’ best option for sharing with others. It is not only offered to the men to honor their virility before going to hunt but also to welcome visitors in special occasions. The tradition of drinking chicha for breakfast, lunch, dinner or whenever one feels thirsty or hungry has survived and thus, it has become an important part of their daily diet.
Advantage Travel is proud of Ecuadorian ancestral culture and practices. For that reason, we encourage adventurers from all around the world to know a bit more about this unique fermented beverage that comprises the strength of the jungle in one sip.