The Art of Tejate

San Andrés Huayápam is a small village (around 6,000 residents) situated a few kilometers from the city of Oaxaca. San Andrés Huayápam is also the home of tejate, a traditional beverage. The annual Palm Sunday tradition is the Tejate Fair, which has been on hold for the past three years due to COVID. This year the joyous tradition returned.

16th Century church in the zocalo in San Andrés Huayápam

Tejate is a beverage traced from Mesoamerican history and created from ingredients found locally: corn, fermented cacao beans, mamey pits (called pixtle after they are toasted and ground) and cacao flowers. Making this traditional drink is labor intensive: toasting the corn, grinding the cacao beans, and then stirring these ingredients together to a consistency that is pourable with the addition of water and a bit of sugar.

Flor de cacao on display during Tejate Fair

Tejate is not only delicious, but also has nutritional value. The Zapotecs, natives to this area of Oaxaca, used tejate in ceremonies, as well as an energy drink for the laborers working across this agricultural region.

The ingredients for Tejate may be traditional, but serving the beverage includes tradition and performance. Huge clay pots are put into service to mix the tejate. Small gourds (jicamas) are used to serve the beverage, sometimes decoratively painted or carved.

Pouring the tejate has aspects of performance art, where the most practiced servers pour from a great distance, never spilling a drop.

The performance of pouring

If you find yourself in Oaxaca, don’t hesitate to try tejate. If you can’t attend the Tejate Fair on Palm Sunday, you can find the beverage in many of Oaxaca’s markets.

All photos by Linda Marston-Reid Copyright © 2023.


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