La Chaya Maya, a Unique and Refreshing Drink from México

By Ralph Velasco

Let’s venture to México’s Yúcatan peninsula to try some refreshing and oh so good for you Chaya Maya.

When I travel, I’m constantly on the lookout for unique and interesting drinks, particularly ones that I don’t think I’d easily find anywhere else.

Several years ago, I was in Mérida, México, and I hit the jackpot when I was introduced to a gorgeous glass of a local drink called Chaya Maya.

Finished glass of Chaya Maya in Merida, Mexico by Ralph Velasco
Ice cold glass of Chaya Maya in Mérida, México by Ralph Velasco

My New Favorite Drink: Cnidoscolus aconitifolius

At that time, I declared that my new favorite drink was Cnidoscolus aconitifolius, better known as “chaya,” or tree spinach (OK, so I didn’t actually try to pronounce its scientific name).

This fast-growing and leafy shrub, which can grow up to 6 meters (upwards of 20 feet high) is readily found in México’s Yucatán Peninsula and it’s thought to have originated there. 

When cut, its stems put forth a milky sap and it’s important to note that chaya leaves contain a high concentration of a toxin known as hydrocyanic acid and that a maximum of 5 raw leaves should be eaten per day.  

What happens if you go for that 6th leaf?  Well, I’m not exactly sure. 

To be safe, chaya leaves must be cooked a minimum of 5 to 15 minutes.

Man Preparing Chaya in Merida, Mexico by Ralph Velasco
Man preparing Chaya in Merida, Mexico by Ralph Velasco

Chaya Can Be Found Throughout México

Although found from northern México to Guatemala, I had a chance to try this distinct beverage in Mérida, in the state of Yucatán, México.

Most commonly whipped into a beautifully-green libation whose base is the spinach-like leaf that’s rich in vitamins and minerals, chaya, at least in the recipe that I had, is simply blended with water, lime and sugar into a thick and refreshing drink.

Here’s a great resource with lots more information about chaya, so be sure to check it out.

Adding lime to chaya in Mérida, México by Ralph Velasco
Straining ingredients to make the perfect chaya.

Prepared Correctly, Chaya is Very Healthy

Chaya, once cooked so that the tiny hairs found on its leaves are no longer a threat, is very healthy.

It’s a wonderful plant chock full of protein, calcium, vitamins and iron, as well as valuable antioxidants.  

Chaya soup in Mérida, México by Ralph Velasco
Blended into tasty drinks and meals, chaya may just be the perfect super food.

Please Be Sure to Comment Below

Have you ever tried chaya?  Would it interest you?

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