Pozol: A Must-Try Beverage from Southern Mexico

Pozol, from the Nahuatl pozolli, which the Maya-Chontal people of Tabasco called “pochotl,” is a thick, cocoa and corn-based drink of Mesoamerican origin still consumed today.

This fermented beverage is trendy in southern Mexico, primarily in Tabasco, where it is the traditional drink. Also in Chiapas, and part of Central America, particularly in indigenous communities.

Pozol is part of Tabasco’s culture. It is served to the locals as support for exhaustion since it contains the properties of an everyday snack.

This makes it very practical among people who work in long-term jobs.

Pozol origin

Since pre-Hispanic times, the Maya-Chontales of Tabasco elaborated a drink based on cocoa and corn called “pochotl,” which was highly appreciated among the ancient inhabitants of these lands for being a nutrient of resistance for indigenous travelers.

They knew its importance because it nourished and mitigated thirst in these scorching areas and lasted without spoiling.

From 1519 when the Spanish conquistadors began to arrive in Tabasco, they knew the “pochotl,” and over the years, deformed the name to pozol.

In various writings of the colonial period, the Spaniards who traveled through these lands described pozol as a sour drink of the Indians that made them resistant to the heat.

The Pozol trade

Making Pozol – Source: Flor Rosas / flickr.com

Along the famous commercial routes of the rivers, through the jungle areas, and on the royal roads of the Mexican Southeast, the indigenous travelers carried some corn tortillas and pozol.

On long trips, the masa (corn dough) combined with water was substituted by the pinole they used to carry.

Thanks to the intense commercial exchange between the different Mayan groups in pre-Hispanic times, the beverage passed to other places in the southeast, such as Chiapas and Oaxaca, where the nutritional value of pozol was appreciated.

It is known that the Mayan, Zoque, and Chiapaneca Indians, who inhabited the regions of Chiapas, prepared the “pozolli,” which was considered a ritual for their gods.

Thus, through trade routes, the consumption of pozol spread to regions as far away as the Yucatan Peninsula and Central America.

In ancient times, the preparation of pozol among the Maya-Chontales of Tabasco required the cultural virtues and wisdom of women who made pozol on their grinding stones.

Pozol variations

In the state of Tabasco, there are four varieties: pozol, sweet potato pozol, sour pozol, and the most popular one- Chorote.

To make plain pozol, the same steps are followed, except for adding cocoa; in this case, the mash acquires a white color.

The sweet potato version is very similar to the white pozol, only that mashed sweet potato is mixed with the corn dough.

For the sour one, the dough is left to ferment for 4 or 5 days and sometimes two weeks or more until it gets “moldy,” it is very rich in penicillin and is a good remedy for hangovers.

Once the dough is fermented, it is beaten in water and served. 

Chorote is made by fermenting a mixture of nixtamal dough and ground cocoa.

Pozol owes its popularity to several factors, some of which are traditionalist.

The reason for this is that pozol tends to settle after a couple of minutes, leaving at the bottom of the container a residue called “shish” or “shishito” in Tabasco or “motzú” in Chiapas, made up of masa and cocoa, or just masa in the case of white pozol.

Then, when shaking it again, with the characteristic elliptical movement called “meneadito del pozol,” the pozol resumes its thick consistency and, as it is popularly said in Tabasco, “it is an edible drink,” alluding to the fact that, when drinking, the “shish” was chewed, thus quenching thirst and hunger simultaneously.

Regarding the cultural reference of the word “shish,” it comes from the Mayan word that means “rest” or “residue,” applied to the settling of some solvent diluted in water.

You may want to read: Mexican Cafe de Olla: The Traditional Spiced Coffee

Where to find Pozol

Pozol shop in Chiapas – Source: Sachin Bharadwaj / flickr.com

In the state of Tabasco, it is possible to find it in practically all urban and rural communities.

It is consumed by most of the population in its three modalities: sweet potato, white or sour, and chorote.

In the city of Villahermosa Tabasco, it is sold in refreshment stores or street “agua fresca” stands, along with other beverages such as horchata, agua de jamáica, and pitahaya, among others.

In Chiapas, it is also very common to find it in almost every community in the state.

In cities such as Tuxtla Gutierrez, San Cristobal de las Casas, Tapachula, and Chiapa de Corzo, there are many “pozolerías,” and flavored water stands where you can taste this drink.

Nowadays, the Chiapas laborers who work in the fields still prepare this drink with a double purpose: to quench thirst and calm the appetite.

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