Deep in the heart of the Amazon, in the riverside town of Maués, they grow a fruit you may have never heard of. Guaraná grows in other places, but Maués is the heart of its production, as guaraná is not only a prized fruit made into a daily drink, it’s a tourist draw. They even have an annual guaraná festival.
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Guaraná contains high levels of caffeine – as much as four times that of coffee beans, as well as other psychoactive stimulants (including saponins and tannins) associated with improved cognitive performance. And numerous research papers explore its potential in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antidepressant, intestinal regulator and even an aphrodisiac.
Maués might be dubbed the “land of guaraná” but the fruit’s history long predates the town. The Sateré-Mawé indigenous people have been cultivating guaraná in their ancestral forests nearby for millennia. It was their ancestors who domesticated the species, learned of its properties and devised the best cultivation and processing techniques.
Guaraná has a traditional origin story that, yes, involves an eyeball, and long-held traditions on how to prepare and consume it. But it’s also a moneymaker, working its way into South American sodas. It may even prolong life. Read about guaraná and what it means at BBC Travel. -via Digg
(Image credit: Anita Fortis)