Huitoto Indians – Making Cocoa Powder

The cocoa plant has played an important role for many indigenous groups throughout South America, especially the Amazon basin.  Western culture mainly knows the cocoa plant for its white powder derivative, cocaine, but indigenous groups have and continue to use the leaf for various, non-drug related purposes.  In the mountainous regions of Bolivia and Peru the leaves are widely chewed to aid with the altitude and tribes in the Amazon use a powdered form to prevent fatigue.  Cocoa leaves have a surprisingly high nutritional content (calcium, potassium, phosphorous, B vitamins, fiber, etc.) and unless you manage to chew through something like 4,000 pounds you won’t even get close to the same affect as cocaine.  Gabe and I chewed through a bags full on our way through Bolivia and we hardly ever were hungry (this is saying something if you know me).

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