We get this question from time to time, and on the surface, you’d think it would be an easy one to answer!
However, a number of factors come into play. For example, coca tea can be prepared from fresh or dried coca leaves. There are several species of Coca plant, and each of these, along with the part of the world where they are grown can also affect the flavor and aroma.
Seeing that most people will never get to try coca tea made from fresh leaves, unless they visit South America, we’ll keep this discussion to coca tea made with dried leaves.
I’ve based my tasting notes on Delisse Coca Tea, which is available in the USA. Of all the mass-market coca teas, Delisse has, over the years, shown itself have the most consistent quality.
Start your coca tea tasting with your nose!
Good quality coca has a pleasant odor not unlike freshly cut grass. This will decrease over time and with handling, so it’s always important to get the freshest coca you can find.
Dried coca should have a touch of bitterness to it, if you are tasting the material before steeping in hot water. The presence of these bitter undertones signifies the presence of alkaloids. They aren’t always easy to detect, though, as coca can have a slight numbing effect on the mouth.
Flavor is really hard to describe. It certainly shares nothing in common with “normal” black tea. Many people have likened it to green tea, such as Matcha, but I find that normal green tea has much more of a “zing” or “tang” to it, while coca tea tastes “flatter”. Being alkaline, once the tea is made with hot water, the fresh cut-grass smell seems to transform into a reasonably strong aroma filled with herbal notes, and the resulting tea is generally smooth-flavored. I’ve found there has always been an absence of citrus or tangy elements.
As one progresses through a cup of coca tea, it is not uncommon to find a slight numbing at the back of the throat, caused by the beneficial alkaloids found in coca tea. This numbness also affect your taste buds, and so the flavor of coca tea is often “masked” by the anesthetic effect of the tea itself!
In summary, if you enjoy discovering new herbs and are adventurous with trying new flavors, you will love coca tea.
If, on the other hand, you’re not a fan of strong herbal odors and flavors, it might not quite be your “cup of tea”.
For me, regardless of what it tastes like, I have found coca tea to give me a great energy boost that helps me power through my day. I personally enjoy the taste, as do millions of other people all over the world, especially in the countries of South America, where coca tea is a national drink, and available just about everywhere.
See, I told you it was hard to answer what does coca tea taste like!