In Peru there is a common drink in the evening that we call “emolientes” or emollients, even though many people shorten the word to just “
molientes”. These beverages are important options to combat the cold that runs through our city almost as soon as the sun goes down. The people who make their living making and selling emollients in the street work at two times where the sales are strong, mornings and evenings.
Besides warming you up and protecting you from cold, the infusions from which the emollients are made come from medicinal plants. Many people know the properties of the different plants used to make emollients. For that reason they love to drink a glass of hot emollient. They will approach the various carts where they are sold to ask for their emollient and the specific infusions that they wish for.
The plants used include squeezed limes, flax, boldo, horsetail, barley, alfalfa, and ayrampo (a cactus. Each of these are kept on the cart in glass bottles, separate and ready to be combined in particular proportions to form an emoliente.
Many people rely on the emollients to drive away inflammation of their tonsils, to help reduce internal heat, or other illnesses. Because of their ingredients and uses the emollients are sometimes called cool teas. The ayrampo and flax especially give them this designation.
The caseras and caseros (vendors) who sell these drinks from their carts will ask you first, before they make up your emollient, whether you wish it to be warm or hot, if it is to take away or to be drunk at the moment, or if you wish one or more of the infusions more than others. They will make the emollient up to your preference.
From 4 or 5 in the afternoon the vendors set up in strategic points where they can sell the emollients. Their special carts have different holes for glasses as well as for the infusions. They also contain a space for a big pot where people keep the basic hot tea to which the other infusions are added.
In the pot, they boil plants such as horsetail and barley. It should always be kept hot. The cart, as a result is like a stove and has a burner to keep the pot at the right temperature. Of course we should not forget it also has wheels to enable it to be easily transported.
If you find yourself in the center of Cuzco and it is early morning or dusk you might go by a corner where you will see an emollient cart. You can enjoy one of the delicious infusions which are both medicinal and keep you warm.