Back when I was 20, I was a “broke ass b!tch” in Brazil with a fond appreciation for alcohol. Not a good combo. During this time, all of my friends kept raving about this drink called catuaba. Initially, all I knew about it was that you could buy it at the gas station for a few reais and it would give you a horrible hangover. However, I’ve learned it has a pretty juicy history.
The native Tupi people of Brazil have used the catuaba plant as an aphrodisiac for centuries. Today, many Brazilians claim it’s a sort of “love potion” and drink it religiously at parties. Others just claim it makes people want to have sex. Interpret the term “love potion” as you will.
After a couple of weeks living in Belo Horizonte, my mineiro friend that I had met in Italy hit me up and invited me to a catuaba FESTIVAL. I mean, hey, I loved the taste of catuaba; however, I didn’t know what to expect at a festival where everyone was chugging this love concoction. Long story short, I accepted the invite. #YOLO, am I right?
On the evening of the festival, I arrived completely alone. The entire street was blocked off with Brazilians holding their own personal share of catuaba, conversing, and dancing the night away. I had told my friend I would meet him inside the event, but first I had to wait in a line much longer than the metaphorical line of my patience. When I finally arrived at the front, I flashed my credit card to the employee.
“Yeah, we don’t take cards.”
“Umm cool… but I don’t have cash.”
A concerned blue-eyed festival worker, let’s call him Matheus, grabs my hand and tells me he will help me pay the admission fee. We zip in and out of the gigantic crowd and he suspiciously disappears into a nearby building with my card. A minute later, he comes running back with the receipt and exclaims “Here ya go!” (but like in Portuguese of course).
After obrigado’ing him, I turn around to search for my friend. Alarmed, Matheus grabs my hand and asks:
Are you here alone?
To which I reply:
“Umm… no dude. I’m looking for my friend Otávio.”
“Can I help you?”
After grabbing some catuaba, our two-person search party pushed and shoved its way through hundreds of people, but Otávio was nowhere to be found. A half hour into looking, I was about to give up, when Matheus popped the question of the day:
Can I make out with you?
I spit out my catuaba so quick. Like what the heck Matheus? We were supposed to be searching for my friend Otávio, not searching for an excuse for you to stick your tongue down my throat. Yeah, no – CANCELLED.
Thankfully, I finally saw Otávio in the distance and ran over to him. We hugged it out and I spent the night catching up with him and meeting his friends. Adeus Matheus.
Oh, but it doesn’t end there amigos! One of Otávio’s friends, Antonio, took a liking to me almost immediately, but I wasn’t interested at all. Remember when the Japanese first lady pretended she couldn’t speak English so Trump would leave her alone? I acted like I couldn’t speak much Portuguese so Antonio would take a hint. Damn, I was savage when I was 20.
However, I guess after drinking enough catuaba, my opinion on him somehow took a massive 180. Don’t even ask me how the heck it happened, but we ended up leaving the party together. Did you see that one coming? Neither did I. SPOOKY!
(But spoiler alert for all of you curious at home: we never saw each other again after that night. Sorry to disappoint).
So anyways, is catuaba really a love potion? I can’t tell you for sure, but from my experience, it seems to cause some interesting behavior. Does your culture have a love potion? Have you ever tried catuaba? Let us know in the comments below.