Raquel Miserachi @salvenseustedes
I was walking towards the zócalo at the very center of Colima, a tropical city right in the Mexican west coast, praised for it’s local beer Colimita, it’s beautiful beaches and Mexico's busiest port responsible for handling Pacific cargo for the Mexico City area. It was a hot day of spring and I was looking for a place to sit and enjoy a big breakfast near the cathedral.
Reined by the power of an active volcano, el Volcán de Fuego de Colima which lies over the border in the neighboring state of Jalisco, Colima is one of the smallest states in territorial extension and population in the country. You can grasp a bit of a solitary vibe even at the pounding heart of the city. Mexican writer Juan Rulfo pictured Comala as an extreme ghost town in his most important novel Pedro Páramo that is actually a few miles away from the capital.
So I was walking in the least busy main street I’ve ever walked, Avenida Constitución, and I saw an empty stand with a strange vase, a few plastic cups and a sack of plain peanuts and stopped. I looked around to spot a victim for my touristic interrogatory when a guy across the street whistled to let the owner of the stand know he had a customer.
A tall handsome man with a local tan dressed in a faultless traditional attire approached in his leather huaraches. He offered me a handshake and smiled as he introduced himself to me and asked if I would like to try a fresh drink, “typical from the region”, he said. I was about turn down the offer but he was charming and really passionate about the drink. Before I could say anything I already had a cup in my hand with a zip for me to taste on.
“It’s called ‘tuba’. It has no alcohol in it, its not fermented and no sugar added”, he said while he threw in some bare peanuts in my cup. It kind of tastes like sour coconut water, only stronger and thicker. “We extract the sap from the cut flower from the plant tree. The white liquid that initially collects tends to be very sweet and non-alcoholic before it is fermented”. He poured some more tuba on an iced cup and this time it was topped with chunks of fresh red apples and pomegranate. Finally he topped it with a scoop of peanuts. I went away with my $15 pesos edible souvenir. It turned out to be a full breakfast and I couldn’t eat until lunchtime.
Tuba originally arrived to Colima from the Philippines by sea about 500 years ago aboard a ship thoughtfully named Manila. The word is in Tagalog, Indonesian language spoken in the Philippines. Later I came to learn that the drink is actually very popular in other countries. People usually let the liquid ferment for a few hours and get the alcoholic version of tuba also known as palm wine with 4% of alcohol in it. In Cameroon its called matango, in Nigeria they refer to it as emu, they call it kallu in South India and tuak in Indonesia and Malaysia.
If you ever walk through the streets of Colima, have a taste of tuba. You wont regret it.