Tuesday 22nd February, 2005

 

Mauby, please!

 
 
 
 
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A woman enjoys a cold glass of mauby.

By Sheldon J Yearwood

Local folklore abounds with tales of the diuretic and aphrodisiac qualities of mauby. It has also been reputed to lower blood cholesterol. Many of us have been told by elders that it’s the best thing for a good “cooling.”

In Trinidad mauby has been a refreshing beverage for decades. Some prefer the drink over water. It is also very popular during the hectic Carnival season.

“Mauby is one of the most natural drinks in the world,” said an elderly mauby drinker from San Fernando.

“I try to make it at least once a week, once I have time. Personally, I must add a piece of clove and vanilla essence to spice up the taste,” she said.

There is a wide assortment of fast food establishments in T&T and the Southland is no exception. There, owners said mauby was one of their fastest-selling beverages.

Abee’s Delicious Bites, located at Imperial Plaza, San Fernando, has been serving food and drinks for decades. Arlene Baptiste, an employee, said that on any given day, mauby sells out first.

“When people come in they ask if we have concentrate or natural mauby. Nobody wants the concentrate! During the heavy lunch period we have to make mauby several times because of the quick turnover,” she said.

An employee of Cafe Caribbean, Montano Plaza, San Fernando, was busy preparing another batch of mauby.

“Mauby is a great seller but mainly to mature adults, approximately 21 years and over. The teenagers and young children ask for juices and soft drink,” she said.

Workers at several other establishments, who wished not to be mentioned, shared the same opinion.

They stressed that young people did not know the value of a healthy lifestyle and that is why the elders refer to them as “The KFC generation.”

On some Caribbean islands people also use the bitter bark and leaves to make medicine for high blood pressure, arthritis and to lower blood cholesterol.

Dr Trevor Alleyne of UWI conducts continuous research at Mt Hope Medical Complex in relation to mauby’s use in treating many of these ailments. He said he planned to release some of his findings in the UWI medical journal later this month.

Local production of mauby concentrate by its largest producer exceeds five million litres a year.

Raw materials are imported from Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Krishna Sirinathsingh is the technical director at National Canners Limited, which produces the Matouk’s, Mabel’s, MP and National brands of food products.

This company is the first and largest producer of commercial mauby in the region.

Mauby concentrate is one of their best-selling products.

Due to an increase in the market for local drinks, the company introduced a single-strength mauby so the consumer could have the convenience of a ready-to-drink beverage.

Making mauby

Ingredients:

1 pint water

3 pieces mauby bark (you can add a few more if desired)

1 small sprig aniseed

1 piece cinnamon

1 lb sugar (or to taste)

A few dashes Angostura bitters

Method:

Place all ingredients into a saucepan and boil for five minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool. Strain the mauby and add water to desired strength. Then taste for sweetness.

You can add sugar to it if it is not sweet enough for you. (Just remember, diabetes is on the rise!)

Finally, swizzle, add cracked ice and add bitters.

Where does it come from?

Mauby bark

The mauby bark comes from a tree belonging to the Rhamnaceae family, which is abundant in many Caribbean islands.

It is found growing in thickets and woodlands, in dry coastal and limestone regions of southwest Puerto Rico, Culebra, St Croix, St Thomas, St John, Tortola and Angola. It flowers in July and fruits from September to March.

The tree can also be grown in southern Florida, including the Florida Keys, Bahamas, Greater Antilles and Lesser Antilles, the south of St Vincent, southern Mexico and Guatemala.

This bitter bark is known by more than one name, depending on the island where it is grown or consumed.

The Dominican Republic calls it mabi; Cuba, jaya jabico; United States, soldier wood and naked wood; Bahamas, smooth snake bark; Haiti, bois mabi and bois de fer; Guadeloupe, bois mabi and mambee; Antigua, mabi; and of course, T&T, mauby.

The sapwood is light brown and the heartwood is dark brown. The wood is hard and heavy, strong and durable. It is commonly used for posts in Puerto Rico.

The tree is evergreen, usually ten-15 feet high and less than four feet in trunk diameter, with a spreading crown of thin foliage.

The orange-brown bark is smooth on small trunks, but becomes fissured, splitting off the scales. The inner bark is light brown and bitter.

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