I am a huge fan of coffee. I drink it everyday, sometimes multiple times a day. Back home you can always find me in coffee shops all over Nashville. Upon arrival in Cusco I was a bit surprised with the lack of true drip coffee in the cafes. However this forced me into the world of Peruvian teas, which did not disappoint. Besides coffee I do drink a lot of tea regularly back in the States. My favorite type of tea is mint tea. It has great health benefits for stomach aches (which occur often with all my food allergies!). As a result, I have been trying mint tea here in Cusco and have been fascinated by the different types and presentations. Muña is an herb restricted to the Andes that has a similar taste to mint and has been the type of tea I’ve ordered the most. It has extreme benefits for digestion, as well as bone and teeth health. It is a bit stronger and bitterer than a regular mint, but I have loved it. I have seen it presented in a tea bag, as loose leaves in a strainer, as loose leaves floating in water, and finally as the entire plant (root and leaves) left to soak in the water. I have never seen the latter two tea presentations in the US. I really liked the whole plant soaking in the water as it gave the fullness in flavor of having the leaves soaking in the water without worrying about swallowing the leaves (and it looked really pretty too). Who knew there could be so many different types of presentations for a single type of tea? Tea is definitely an art form here in Peru and I can’t seem to get enough.
All this being said, I had to fall back onto instant coffee and lattes to cure caffeine headaches, but I have really appreciated the love for tea Peruvians have. It cures the cold days and has its health benefits too. Besides muña I have of course enjoyed coca to help with the altitude sickness (it tastes similar to green tea to me), and have also had just simple manzanilla (chamomile). There are so many different kinds like anis (anise plant) and canela (cinnamon) that I hope to try too. I plan to bring back different kinds for my mom, as she is an avid tea drinker.
Besides the new love for muña and all Peruvian teas, I have also fallen in love with many of the cafes in Cusco so far. I make it my mission to find the best cafes in any new city I go. A hot drink and pastry in hand always makes me feel more at home. So far my favorite is definitely Museo del Cafe and it is right off the central plaza. It has a more modern vibe with fancy coffees, delicious muña, crepes, and other food. The best part, however, are its balconies with views of the plaza and the mountains. The server joked with me that it was too cold to sit out there but the Chicagoan in me could take it just to get a glimpse of the vibrant life below me. Other favorites have been Valeriana (beautiful ambiance), Mama Oli (has a great digestive tea with chamomile, grapefruit, and muña), and Peru Bar (overlooks la Calle Choquechaca near Casa Elena). I plan to find at least one more before leaving Cusco and plan to find others in Lima as well.