Yesterday's article got you down on coffee? Looking for another daily stimulant? Coca leaf tea, or mate de coca to the locals, has been used in many South American countries for millenia and is more prevalent in the region than coffee.
The tea provides an effect similar to coffee, but instead of caffeine, it contains a little more illicit stimulant, cocaine. How much cocaine is in a cup? Where can you get it? Is it even legal? Let's take a look at the current legality and use of the coca leaf.
Top image: Behind Infinity on Deviant Art.
The coca leaf is consumed in two forms, as a tea with religious meaning, medical use, and recreational use and also as a tobacco-like chew used by farmers and tourists to fight altitude sickness. The tea is served warm as an infusion (it looks a bit like spinach floating in a yellow liquid) or in manufactured tea bags, and has a bit of a sweet flavor.
Cocaine is actually present within the tea, but only a small amount – enough to act as a stimulant akin to caffeine, but many believe it to produces a less "jittery" energy effect. When consumed as a tea, the euphoric effect associated with cocaine use is also absent.
How much cocaine is in a cup?
Each cup of tea, if properly made from a gram of coca leaves, contains a little over 4 mg of cocaine. A line of cocaine intended for inhalation is between 50 mg to 75 mg, but if injected directly into the bloodstream, only 10 mg is needed to achieve a high.
A couple of cups of tea during the day, taking metabolic processes into account, is probably not a problem. If chewed, the leaf is treated akin to tobacco, but often mixed with a sugar and ash in order to improve extraction of the chemicals within. The leaves numb the mouth when chewed, with the exact amount of cocaine released difficult to determine.
The fight for continued legality
The ongoing legality of coca leaves and coca leaf tea has been a point of discussion since the 1960s and the UN's Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. South Americans citizens are particularly argumentative over the issue, claiming the leaf to be a part of their heritage in a world that is quickly becoming urbanized.
Shirts emblazoned with the phrase la hoja de coca no es droga (the leaf of the coca is not a drug) are quite common among locals in Peru and Bolivia. Addiction to the tea and chewing the leaf is a tricky issue, with some legislators viewing it as a gateway to cocaine use and a drug-tinted stigma over the countries. To combat use, a decocainized version of the tea has been made available in South America.
Is it available in North America?
Getting the tea through customs may prove an issue upon return to the your native country, but you can buy coca leaves on Amazon or other internet retailers, either prepared for use as a tea or as a bulk dried product. It will produce a stimulant effect a little stronger than coffee, but you probably should not drink it continually through the day (as many of us do with coffee), as you might be approaching a dangerous consumption (and detection...) level.