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Coca tea, also called mate de coca, is an herbal tea (infusion) made using the (typically raw) leaves of the coca plant, which is native to South America. It is made either by submerging the coca leaf or dipping a tea bag in hot water. The tea is most commonly consumed in the Andes mountain range, particularly Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. It is greenish yellow in color and has a mild bitter flavor similar to green tea with a more organic sweetness.
Though also known as mate, mate de coca has very little in common with the yerba mate drink in Southeastern South America.
Alkaloid content and stimulant properties
The leaves of the coca plant contain alkaloids which—when extracted chemically—are the source for cocaine base. However, the amount of coca alkaloid in the raw leaves is small. A cup of coca tea prepared from one gram of coca leaves (the typical contents of a tea bag) contains approximately 4.2 mg of organic coca alkaloid. (In comparison, a line of cocaine contains between 20 and 30 milligrams.) Owing to the presence of these alkaloids, coca tea is a mild stimulant; its consumption may be compared to consumption of coffee or tea. The coca alkaloid content of coca tea is such that the consumption of one cup of coca tea can cause a positive result on a drug test for cocaine, however.
Similar to decaffeination in coffee, coca tea can be decocainized. Just as decaffeinated coffee retains a minute quantity of caffeine, decocainized coca tea will still contain a minute quantity of organic coca alkaloids.
Coca tea is legal in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, and Chile. However, its use is being discouraged in part by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Coca tea is illegal in the United States unless it is decocainized.
Medicinal and traditional uses
Coca tea has been used to wean cocaine addicts off the drug.
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