Chicha is a fermented beverage brewed by the indigenous people of the Andean region, dating back to the Inca Empire when women were taught the techniques of brewing chicha in Acllahuasis (femenine schools). It is traditionally prepared from a specific kind of yellow maize (jora) and is usually referred to as chicha de jora. It has a pale straw color, a slightly milky appearance, and a slightly sour aftertaste. It is drunken either young and sweet or mature and strong. It contains a slight amount of alcohol, 1-3%.
In Peru, chicha also means an informal and transient arrangement, or a street vendor. In other Latin American countries, chicha can simply mean "softdrink" or "juice."
The common Spanish expression Ni chicha ni limonada is roughly equivalent to the English "neither fish nor fowl."
Chicha de jora is prepared by germinating maize, extracting the malt sugars, boiling the wort, and fermenting it in large vessels, traditionally huge eartheware vats, for several days.
Chicha de jora has been prepared and consumed in communities throughout in the Andes for millennia. The Inca used chicha for ritual purposes and consumed it in vast quantities during religious festivals. In recent years, however, the traditionally prepared chicha is becoming increasingly rare. Only in a small number of towns and villages in southern Peru and Bolivia is it still prepared.
In Peru, mature chicha is used in cooking as a kind of cooking wine, in, for example, seco de cabrito (stewed goat).
There are various regional varieties of chicha:
- In Lima and other large coastal cities, chicha morada is prepared from maiz morado (purple corn ). It is usually sweet and consumed cold like a softdrink. It is even industrially prepared and sold in bottles and cans.
- In and around Cuzco, strawberries are added to chicha in season to make frutilla.
- In Puno, chicha can be found made from quinoa. It is very pale in color, almost white.
- In Ayacucho, chicha de siete semillas is a thick, rich-tasting chicha made from maize, wheat, barley, and garbanzo beans.
- In the town of Huanta , chicha de molle is prepared from the small, reddish seeds of the molle tree. It is very rare and perhaps the most delicately flavored chicha.
Last updated: 05-21-2005 10:23:16