I’ve been hit by a Bolivian coca leaf liqueur. It’s the strangest thing. Like falling in love, I didn’t see it coming.
It all started last Tuesday evening I was at the Bolivian Embassy here in London celebrating the Occasion of the Presentation of Credentials to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II The Ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the Court of St. James H.E. Roberto Calzadilla or in my language “the Queen’s official welcome to Roberto Calzadilla, Bolivia’s new Ambassador to the UK. I’d met Roberto twice before, once at the Chelsea Arts Club with artist Gaston Ugalde and the second time at an event to promote Bolivian quinoa here in London. One of his major roles as Ambassador is to promote Bolivian exports e.g. quinoa and Bolivian culture, particularly the coca leaf which is part of their heritage and an integral part of Bolivian every day life. However, when processed it becomes the raw material for cocaine, Bolivia’s largest export. It’s a subject I knew little about before meeting Gaston but one that has tweaked my interest ever since.
This time Roberto stood at the main door of the Embassy warmly greeting each of his guests. He looked very dapper indeed in his traditional Bolivian attire. I kissed him on the cheek and congratulated him before making my way upstairs. It was a lovely warm evening, the doors of the first floor reception room opened out onto Eaton Square, people chatted in groups, quinoa sushi and empanadas were passed round and wine, champagne and a traditional Bolivian cocktail made from the coca leaf were offered on the drinks table. It was a formal event or at least semi formal, but relaxed with none of the stuffiness usually associated with this type of do. More of a South American atmosphere I thought although I’ve actually never been there.
At the appropriate moment, Roberto took centre stage and proudly recounted the day’s activities. I had to laugh when he told us about how he’d arranged with his four year old daughter that, on cue, she feed a carrot to a horse – for a press photo I guess – while they were on their way to meet the Queen, but she was so tired that when he finally gave her the cue she promptly ate the carrot herself!
We all clapped as Roberto finished his speech and was presented with a bottle of what appeared to be a blue liqueur by the man standing next to him. As it turned out, this was the liqueur used in the cocktail I’d been drinking, Agwa de Bolivia, my second one at that stage. To be more precise, and as Tommy who was making the presentation explained, the green version used in the cocktails is made from 40% coca leaf, the blue version, a bottle of which was now in Roberto’s paws, is made from 100% coca leaf.
I wasn’t feeling drunk or even tipsy, more charged with a relaxed-confidence and strangely enough with an overwhelming desire for a bottle of the blue Agwa de Boliva called Coca Blue. Actually ‘overwhelming’ is the wrong word, it was more like the desire had landed from nowhere – completely out of the blue… and I just had to have a bottle full stop.
I’d overheard some one say the makers were Irish. ‘My in’ I thought so without further ado I introduced myself to Tommy as one of his fellow countrywomen probably sounding like a real twat – but didn’t care – I was on a mission. He was very polite and we talked for a few minutes before he handed me over to his colleague John who I basically cornered into giving me his card so I could contact him for purchasing info.
Mission accomplished, I spent the next 20 minutes chatting to familiar faces. Well I thought I was chatting but a friend told me afterwards I was really giving it some on the conversation front. Mind you, later at the Chelsea Arts Club, I bumped into another person who’d been at the Embassy and who’d had the same experience. Ah, now I understood.
So could this be the new Absinthe?
Well what if it is? I’ve never had absinthe and have about as much interest in getting high as I would for standing in a smoke filled pub all night. OMG NO THANK YOU.
Then why did I feel such a strong desire to ensure a “second reunion”? And what does a nice Yiddishe cailín like me have to do with Bolivia anyway?
Beats me but the following day I emailed John saying I’d like to write about Agwa de Bolivia for my blog and how it can be used to promote the Bolivian coca leaf heritage and oh yeah any chance of a bottle of the blue stuff?
To my joyous surprise he wrote back saying he’d send info on their links with the coca leaf and how they’d come to know Roberto and – here’s the bit that got me the most – he’d arrange for a bottle of CocaBlue to be delivered to my flat!
Well last night I got home at about midnight and there, sitting in front of my hall door was a big package. I can’t tell you how excited I am, I’ve already boasted about it with the girls over coffee this morning. The whole thing is quite a turn on!
I want to get to know this strange new entity in my life. Will read John’s info in the next few days and do a bit of my own research.
But really, what’s this all about?