A week ago, I had the opportunity to learn the process of making chicha. A group of friends had been named to bring chicha to a cargo for a dance troupe called chunchacas. When I arrived at their house of culture, I me master Edwin. IAs soon as I arrived we went to the kitchen where they were making the chicha.
I was assigned to grind the corn jora, that is the germinated corn, in a stone batán, one large flat stone as base and an upper stone for rocking back and forth. This technique for grinding is not used much these days for grain. Nevertheless, I began to grind the jora while I saw two large pots that were boiling over a wood fire. I had never before helped grind the jora.
They gave me a basket of jora and, at first, I thought I would finish grinding it quickly but it took more time, around two hours. I learned you have to grind slowly and only grind two handfuls at a time.
Chicha always begins with corn. You soak it in water to help with the process of germination. The corn begins to germinate when placed on a layer of pepper grains folded between two Andean textiles.
The sprouted corn is then left to dry and the malt sugars are taken out. It is now ready to be ground. You rock the upper stone from front to back and then forward again to grind the grains into a fine powder.
Once finisher, the corn flour is added to a raqui, a large clay pot, and is fille with approximately 30% water. There are a series of boilings necessary. You boil it for about four hours. You add malted barley, wheat flour, as well as flours of quinoa and fava beans. We leave it rest for a whole day so it can slowly ferment into a concentrated chicha. In Quechua, we call this first chicha upi.
Before setting it to ferment all night, you add a dark beer (cerveza negra) and some people add their own beers made from natural plants such as fennel or chamomile. These help with digestion.
In Cusco, chicha is much consumed in our traditional neighborhoods as well as in patronal fiestas for the cargos. It is also sold in chicherías and picanterías every afternoon. It is a drink that brings the community together. While people drink chicha in large caporales (very large glasses) they gather to speak about the day, personal things, and to play the traditional games which are never missing, cards and sapo. In some ways, these places are like cafés elsewhere where people gather to drink a coffee and have long conversations.