KDrink Provides a Buzz from the Coca Leaf

In need of a little pick-me-up? Head on down to Peru and hit the grocery stores, where you'll find a new kind of iced tea drink--KDrink--with a formula made from coca leaves, the prime ingredient in cocaine.

Each bottle of Kdrink contains a trace 0.6 milligrams of the outlawed stimulant.

Before you get too excited, you should know that 0.6 mg "of natural, unprocessed cocaine" is less powerful than a cup of joe. So what's the big deal? Kdrink's manufacturer wants to bring it to the U.S.

With the notable exception of Coca-Cola, products using coca leaves are banned in most nations beyond the Andes by strict U.S. and U.N. import regulations. But the two new Peruvian drinks — Kdrink iced tea and Vortex energy drink — hope to buck the system and find legal paths into foreign markets. The makers of Kdrink believe many nations will allow their drink if vague anti-coca rules are clarified, while the bottlers of Vortex are banking on a cocaine-free coca formula.

Pitching the pick-me-up possibilities of coca leaves is nothing new. In 1886, an Atlanta pharmacist invented Coca-Cola as a brain-stimulating tonic that combined cocaine and an extract from the caffeine-producing kola nut. Coke dropped cocaine from its recipe at about 1900, but the secret formula still calls for a cocaine-free coca extract produced at a Stepan Co. factory in Maywood, N.J.

The Governments of Peru and the U.S. have been trying to kill production of the coca leaf. The coca farmers aren't happy because it's their most lucrative crop.

In February, hundreds of Peruvian coca farmers from remote mountainous jungle regions met in Lima. Among their demands: That the government end eradication campaigns and develop new markets for coca-based products.

If coca farmers could sell their crop to legitimate purchasers, there would be less available for illegal drug dealers.

Devida, Peru's counter-drug agency, estimates that 90% of the country's coca-leaf production goes to the narcotics trade, but says it is open to finding new legal uses. "Right now the best alternative crop is legal coca because it has the best price," said Fernando Hurtado, director of alternative development for Devida. "What we want to avoid and fight is coca going to narcotics traffickers."

Thousands of years before the existence of processed cocaine, highland Indians chewed coca to ward off hunger and fatigue. Considered an integral part of Peruvian culture, coca is offered to Andean gods and sold in packaged tea bags in grocery stores. To meet local demand, Peru permits the legal cultivation of less than 30,000 acres of coca bushes.

Kdrink may even be healthy.

Silvia Dongo, a pharmaceutical chemist who helped develop Kdrink, says the beverage provides energy from its 15 vitamins and minerals, 12 amino acids and 14 to 16 alkaloids that are found naturally in coca leaves. "Drinking coca beverages is a way to seek a natural and healthy stimulation," she says.

Sounds no different than Red Bull to us, but somehow, we think Drug Czar John Walters and AG Ashcroft will find a way to keep it from coming to America.

[comments now closed]

< Seven Chinese Kidnapped in Iraq | Internal FBI and Ashcroft Documents >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort: