Chicha de Jora: Popular Corn Beer in Peru

Chicha de Jora: Popular Corn Beer in Peru

Corn, like potatoes and quinoa, played (and still plays) an important role in pre-Inca and Inca culture. But what about beer? As it turns out, corn is not only a staple in many typical Peruvian dishes, but it is also the key ingredient in the popular Peruvian beverage called chicha de jora.

Two kinds of chicha: chicha de jora and chicha morada!

Chicha is a word that you need to be aware of, as it refers to two kinds of beverages: alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

Alcoholic chicha is prepared with fermented yellow corn and is called chicha de jora. Non-alcoholic chicha is prepared with purple corn and is called chicha morada. I will write about chicha morada in another article. For now I would like to write about chicha de jora, popular Peruvian corn beer.

Chicha de jora is prepared from a specific kind of yellow corn (maize jora). This beverage first became famous in the Andes. Chicha de jora was also very well known in the Inca empire, where it was used for ritualistic purposes and consumed during religious festivals.

Chicha de jora is prepared by a fermentation process, that can take up to a few days. It is one of the cheapest and most popular beverages. For less than $0.5 you can order half a liter of the delicious corn beer.

It is an alcoholic drink, but not as strong as, for example, European beer. It contains quite a small amount of alcohol, approximately 1–3%. Chicha de jora is quite tasty and refreshing. But be careful, if you drink too much, you can become quite drunk.

A local woman with a glass of chicha de jora

Additional properties of chicha de jora

Andean people say that the corn drink gives strength to the body. I personally cannot confirm this, as I simply do not taste this beverage often enough. However, if all the locals make this claim about the drink, there is no reason not to believe them.

I wonder if we can also assign the same properties to European beer? For me, the only known effect from this beer is the reknowned “beer belly”, which has nothing to do with strength.

Chicha de jora is also being researched as an anti-inflammatory agent on the prostate.

Where you can taste Peruvian chicha de jora?

You can taste this beer in the south of Peru. It is sold in every small town, village and residential neighborhood. Usually, chica de jora is sold in “chicherias” – which is also the word referring to an unused room in a house or kitchen.

Chicha de jora in Peru
Searching for chicha de jora

The hallmark of this corn liquor is a plastic bag or flag (usually red or blue) hanging on a stick. This symbol adds character to the fence of door that is hangs over, inviting those who pass it to come in for a drink.

Chicha de jora in Peru
Being invited by the red and blue flag

When you see these ribbons, flags or plastic bags on a stick; you can be sure that the shop contains chicha de jora. In the pictures below you can see a classic stick with red and blue plastic bags on the top – symbolizing the drink.

Chicha de jora in Peru
The symbol of chicha de jora

If the stick with the plastic bag disappears, it is a signal that corn beer disappeared too :-). Removal of the sticks with plastic bags or flags, usually means that the drink has sold out!


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