Latin America Fermented Beverages Today

The term chicha in Latin America has always been associated to a traditional or indigenous beverage which may be an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink. It can be produced from a single ingredient or by combining several ones. Whether roots, cereals, tubers, nuts or watery fruits were used, beverages are found to be very diverse. Spices can be added to give a special flavor and sugarcane is always employed in the elaboration. Thus bars of unrefined sugar cane became an important ingredient. The proportion and type of raw materials used in the elaboration varies according the geographical region. In Venezuela the expression chicha is commonly used for a beverage made of rice and milk that does not involve a fermentative process. It is a sweet and refreshing beverage sold in public markets. In the Andean states Tachira, Merida and Trujillo in Venezuela, chicha is made from maize flour, pineapple's juice and skins, which are fermented with the maize wort. Cloves, cinnamon, and guava (Psidium guajava L.) are normally added. In Colombia a similar chicha is still traditionally made and sold in bars and restaurants. It can be an alcoholic drink or not. The spices employed in Colombian fermented beverages are peppermint leaves, marjoram and orange tree leaves. In the tropical regions of Ecuador chicha de yucca or cassava is a popular beverage prepared in rural communities and by aboriginal peoples. Cassava is harvested by hands, washed, peeled and crushed. Then, a sweet carrot's puree (Arracacia xanthorrhiza Bancr. 1826) is added with the intention to accelerate the natural fermentation process. This last step can be done at different degrees and thus, a slightly sweet and acidic beverage can be obtained. At the beginning of the process the drink is sweet but acquires a yeasty smell as the days pass by. The beverage has a milky appearance. In the Ecuadorean hills chicha de jora is elaborated and sweetened with panela. In the Andean region of Ecuador a chicha made from quinoa, panela and pineapple juice is still traditionally produced. Cloves and allspice (Pimienta dioica (L.) Merr.) are also ingredients for this beverage. Peru has a vast diversity of chichas. At present, a non-alcoholic beverage is sold as chicha morada, which is produced artisanally and the process of its production has been industrialized for export overseas. This drink is found in markets as a ready to drink beverage or can be prepared from a powdered formula. Alcoholic chichas in Peru are prepared mainly with maize but they also can include other fruits and vegetables, especially in rural regions. With the black or purple maize cultivar, called guinapo, a purple and sweet chicha is elaborated. The white chicha is made with several grains such as maize, cereals and spices. Chicha de cacao is elaborated during cacao harvesting season. Chica de jora can be the base for the elaboration of other kind of drinks. Smashed strawberries can be added to Chicha de jora and the drink frutillada is obtained. It can be added also with chicha de mani which is rich in oil. Bean flour, browned barley and quinoa can become ingredients in chicha de jora. In Peru jora is produced, packaged and commercialized overseas. Companies such as Inca's Food and Arezzo produce and export bottled chicha. These products can be found even on the web site. Peru is the main and most important producer of chicha. Markets for chicha are found in Europe and in the United States in which this preparation is sold as a ready to drink beverage or as a seasoning due to its acidic taste. In Bolivia the most traditional and well known chicha is the maize chicha made from jora. Bolivia has an export trade of bottled chicha to the United States, Spain, Italy and Sweden. The production is still artisanal but in few cases the process has been fully industrialized. There are regulations that standardize physical-chemical and microbiological parameters in bottled chicha. In Argentina chicha is still an artisanal and traditional drink prepared mainly by northwestern communities. The production is carried out for traditional celebrations such as the carnival, the day of Dead and in the veneration of goddess Pachamama. Chicha mukeada is not allowed by regulatory law but is allowed to be prepared only with beer yeasts. The chicha prepared in northwest of Argentina has modifications introduced by Spaniards in some stages in the process. In this region the most traditional chicha is prepared on the basis of maize criollo and jora. Another well-known traditional fermented beverage found in the Northwest of Argentina is the aloja. Aloja is prepared from carobs from the tree called algarrobo. In central Chile, chichas are prepared from fruits, especially grapes and apples.

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