Before I went to Peru in 2006, I asked my Peruvian friend for a list of must-try foods and beverages. Of course I expected to see Inca Kola and pisco sour on her list, but I had no idea what chicha was. I was determined to cross off as many items from her list as possible, so I went in search of this corn-based drink.
My friend had said that it was not common in Lima, so I waited until our arrival in Cusco before I asked. I asked the waiter at the Andes Grill Restaurant if they sold chicha. He looked horrified and told me that nice restaurants usually don’t serve chicha. I later realized that this was something to be found in more rural areas. My Spanish is very poor, and my Quechua is nonexistent; I was beginning to doubt that I would get the chance to try chicha. So I was very happy when we stopped at a small roadside “bar” – a house which contained a guinea pig farm and a small room for drinking chicha. They even had a drinking game of sorts in the front yard!
I was able to sample a few different types – chicha is a pretty generic term which covers a wide variety of beverages. I remember a pale yellow drink, a pale pink drink, and a purple drink, all cloudy. We sampled them while eating a variety of roasted corn kernels. While I liked all the chichas, I enjoyed them more for the novelty factor than the actual taste.
And reading about the chewing process… well, now I’m not so surprised that our native tour guide was ill the next day!