Tejate, Oaxacan “Drink of the Gods”

Tejate, Oaxacan “Drink of the Gods”

By Mari Soco Ortiz 

When I think about Oaxaca, I think in tradition. Perhaps, no other place in Mexico has their traditions and customs so ingrained as in this beautiful state.

There are three things I recommend you taste when you visit Oaxaca, three from hundreds, and you can not go without them: Tejate, Tlayudas and Chapulines.

Today I’ll talk a little about the Tejate “Drink of the Gods”, a prehispanic  drink prepared from maize and cacao, native of San Andres Huayapam, located just five kilometers from the city of Oaxaca.

The word Tejate comes from the Nahuatl  “Texatl” which means “water floured” composed of the words “textli” (flour) and “atl” (water). In Zapotec, the tejate is called cu’uhb.

Tejate main ingredients are: roasted maize flour, fermented cacao beans, mamey seeds and cacao flower (also called “Rosita de cacao”). All these ingredients are finely ground on metate to make a paste which then is mixed with cold water, by hand, slowly, in a huge clay pot. When Tejate is ready, cocoa flower rises to the top of the container to form a foam. Connoisseurs know that the best Tejate is one with a thick layer of “rosita de cacao”. ( In this context, this foam called “rosita de cacao” refers to the foam formed by the fat emerge from  the ingredients.)

The “tejateras” from San Andrés Huayapam, say that the secret to making a good Tejate, is very well cooked maize in ash water.

When you taste it, you will notice that is a deliciously refreshing drink where the flavors protruding are roasted maize and cocoa. When your palate learns to distinguish these flavors, you’ll be able to find the flavors of mamey bone and cacao flower too. Perhaps at first glance, tejate don’t seem antojable, it is lumpy and discolored.  See how you change your mind when you taste it!

By the way, Tejate is served very cold in clay gourds, and if you like, with a little sugar syrup to sweeten. To better appreciate the flavors, do not give a sip, take a large swallow and savor it fully.

In the streets and markets of the city of Oaxaca, you’ll see the tejateras with huge clay pots filled with their drink. Popular culture says the Tejate is the perfect remedy to relieve a hangover. Also note that the Tejate suppress  hunger because of the large amount of nutrients it gets from the ingredients.

While in the city, drinking Tejate is a custom that is being lost, in rural indigenous Mixtec and Zapotec, is still a popular drink.

When you taste it, dedicate a thought to the great work that women do from sunrise to prepare this ancient drink with bitter and sweet flavors. A drink that highlights the importance of maize and cocoa in Oaxacan culture and traditions.