For the Amazonian cultures, chicha is not only an alcoholic beverage, it is also a highly nutritious food.
It is consumed in times of food shortage, and it is a typical drink that is used to welcome special guests.
In the Andean region chicha is originally made from maize but in the amazon more commonly from yucca root or chonta fruit.
In the traditional production of chicha de maiz, or maize chicha, the enzymes that are needed to hydrolyse the starches in raw materials are derived from human saliva.
|Chonta mash guarded at room temperature in the Amazon.|
Older women masticate a coarsely ground meal, incorporating the amylases of their saliva.
The masticated meal has a dough-like consistency and can be formed to small cakes which are then dried and stored.
When chicha is produced these cakes or the dough is mixed in the water.
The human amylases complete their conversion of starch into fermentable sugars, and yeast and lactic acid fermentation is started by addition of a batch of a prior fermentation.
|Adding riverwater to the chonta mash.|
Depending on the temperature the fermentation is complete and it can take from 6 to 10 days.
In the Amazon area only women can touch the chicha and everyone produces their own typical chicha.
Very common type of Amazonic chicha is chicha de chonta.
Chonta is a palm that is originated from Amazon area of Ecuador and Peru.
The palm is covered with dark spines and its round fruits are yellow to red and they closely resemble peaches.
|Mixing the chicha with hand, this is non-fermented chicha that is served instantly.|
Chicha de chonta is a “fruit” beer, as the fruits since starch and fat rich fruits are used for brewing.
The fruits are cooked, peeled, chewed and mixed with water.
The mash is then left for spontaneous fermentation that can take from 3 to 4 days.
Chicha is also made from yucca root here in the Amazon.
Both yucca and chonta chicha are considered great delicacies and are always given to visitors as the first meal offered.
|Expriming the water from mashed chicha.|
If you do not accept the chicha and drink the whole pilche, or cup, you will not ever be offered anything in that house.
Both chonta and yucca are gluten-free and rich in nutrients.
They are an excelent, and healthy, option for traditional beers or alcoholic beveraged that contain gluten.
The family in the pictures is my friend, or adopted daughter Celia with her husband.
|My friend, and adopted daughter, Celia with pilche of chicha.|
The older kichwa lady is Celia's husbands aunt and my "cousin".
The family wanted to offer me the best they had and show around their house, a traditional wooden kichwa house in the Amazon.
It would have been an incredible insult not to drink chicha and not to drink the whole "pilche" or the tin cup that the lady used while making chicha.
Besides of a kichwa daughter, a lot of cousins, aunts and uncles, I also have four grandchildren now.
For vanity's sake I have to add that my daughter is only five years younger than I am.