We keep talking about coca tea and so I thought we should explain a little. The leaves when refined by the drug cartels become Cocaine, but don´t worry in their original state they are completely legal and do not have any where near the same effects as the drug!
The leaves are chewed by the locals to give a mild stimulant (a bit like drinking a caffiene drink) and are made into tea and various toffees and sweets. Coca leaves are reputed to have medicinal qualities and also help immensely with the effects of altitude sickness. The leaves when chewed on their own are extremely bitter and so neither of us liked them much when we were offered them. The tea is very simply made by putting some dried leaves in a mug, adding hot water and lots of sugar to get rid of the bitterness. It basically tastes like leaves in hot water and is not my favourite thing in the world, but believe me when suffering from the altitude you´ll drink anything to make it go away. It´s an acquired taste!
The Peruvian govenment is making noises about outlawing the cultivation of these leaves that have been farmed for 1000´s of years for reasons far removed from making recreational drugs (although this is a main reason for production now) and this is creating an uproar among the population. It is an unfortunate fact that farmers in Peru earn a pittance for growing coffee and fruit, but can earn a liveable wage growing coca for sale to the drug cartels - a similar problem to the growing of poppies in Afghanistan.