Making balché

Sacred Mayan Drinks of the Yucatán

Balché is a drink unique to the ancient Maya, with religious and godly significance. It is a mildly alcoholic beverage made from the bark of a legume tree. The Maya would first boil the bark to remove its bitterness, than dry it. They would then soak it in honey and “virgin water”– water drawn directly from a cenote, untouched by human hands. They would lastly leave it to ferment for 2-3 days to its final form.

Balché and Saká

The Maya believed that the tree containing the bark represented life, youth, immortality, and wisdom, and that balché purified the drinker and altered one’s consciousness. The Maya used psychotropics as well as alcoholic drinks like balché to reach higher states of consciousness, believing it was way to experience a deeper level of spirituality.

Another religiously important drink is Saká. The accompanying ritual asks the blessings of the Mayan Gods, in honor of the thirteen Mayan spheres of influence. Mayan priests make this drink during the ceremony with the best maize and purest honey, and all participants of the ceremony partake in the drink at the end.

So can a visitor experience either of these mind-altering beverages from the tree of wisdom or in hopes of good fortune? Unfortunately, no. Because the Maya still make it today for ceremonial use, both Balché and Saká are hard to come by and a tourist is unlikely to run into it on a sun-soaked tropical vacation.


However, Balché’s “sister drink” is Xtabentún. Made from the nectar of the morning glory, and mixed with anise, is widely available. Xtabentún is widely available on the Yucatán, and many consider it just as delicious in its yellowish hue. Served alone on ice with honey, or even in coffee in “Mayan coffee” sounds like a spiritual experience.
Come visit the Riviera Maya, stay with BRM Rentals and experience Maya culture– drink it in, too!

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