What you should know about the pre-hispanic drink



Tejate is a pre-hispanic cacao (chocolate) drink from the town of Huayapam, about 20 minutes outside of downtown Oaxaca. Like in many of Oaxaca State’s towns and villages, this drink was originally used to initiate and celebrate various ceremonies amongst the townsfolk, including weddings, births, funerals, administrative events, and coming of age rituals. Today, tejate is most widely known and seen as a refreshing, afternoon drink, served cold in the various markets, roadside stalls, and occasionally cafes in Oaxaca's central valleys. It has become so popular that Huayapam, a town of 3,000 people, hosts an annual tejate festival with an estimated 30,000-50,000 people coming from all over southern Mexico.

This delicious drink has four main ingredients, which include maize (corn), cacao beans, the dried rosita flower, and often but not always the seed of the mamey fruit. Slowly and laboriously, these ingredients are either boiled and nixtamalized, which is the case for the maize or roasted, as is the case for the cacao, rosita flower, and mamey seed. The ingredients are then combined into a masa (or dough) which is then kneaded by hand as the tejatera pours cold water into the mix, slowly loosening the masa to create a thin, creamy consistency that also magically separates the cacao fat from the dough for a delicious topping. The whole process takes about four hours from raw ingredients to finished product.

All of these ingredients combine to make a delicious and also nutritious energy drink that apart from being ceremonial in origin, is also used to enliven the tired bones of farmers here, especially during harvest season. While nixtamalized maize or corn and cacao are known to be incredibly abundant in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, the obscure rosita flower and mamey seed have both curative and cosmetic properties beyond their intoxicating aromas and flavours.

ChocoSol, a chocolate maker that began in Oaxaca in 2004 and since have relocated to Toronto, Canada, whose respect and honour for Oaxacan chocolate traditions thrive not only through their regenerative and direct relationships with their producer communities, but through their chocolate itself. ChocoSol utilizes these traditional tejate flavours to make their own Oaxacan-inspired, Canadian-made tejate drinking chocolate. ChocoSol, a long-time friend of Puente a la Salud Comunitaria (Puente), has recently partnered with the organization to purchase amaranth seed form Puente's producer communities (Learn more). From Oaxaca to Canada, ChocoSol uses Oaxacan amaranth in their tamale masa (or dough), drinking chocolate, and eating chocolate bars.

This Amaranth Day, Puente is taking this regeneration of amaranth a step further by adding it to the traditional tejate masa to make an 'amaranth tejate' – that includes 10% amaranth flour. By doing so, these tejateras add an incredibly nutrient-dense protein to the ceremonial drink, making it not just energetic and delicious, but fortified by the power of amaranth, a seed that was also once very important in the ceremonial life of Oaxacan peoples, but has only lately begun to see a resurgence of the state of Oaxaca, in large part because of the work that Puente has done since 2003.

By Chris Christou, ChocoSol