Mauby – A Taste of the Caribbean That’s Not for Everyone
Mauby is one of those flavors many Americans may not be familiar with no matter how many times they’ve traveled to the Caribbean. It’s also got an acquired taste that I love.
Anyone who’s known me for any small amount of time knows I have a terrible memory. As a result of my wretched powers of recall, I can’t always remember specifics of my childhood growing up on St. Croix with Trini parents. Instead, familiar smells and especially tastes are what usually help me relive those lost years.
Mauby’s bite is worse than its bark
One such taste, unique to the Caribbean, is an island beverage called mauby. Made by boiling mauby bark (more specifically the native to the Caribbean buckthorn bark aka Colubrina elliptica aka behuco indio) with sugar and a variety of spices—mauby sounds like it might taste wonderful. But the truth is, it’s not for everyone.
I’m not saying it’s as odd a taste as Marmite or anything. No, mauby starts out tasting very similar to root beer. Ahhh, refreshing, right?
But just when you think you’re done savoring that sweet taste, mauby turns on you! The bitter aftertaste is so strong, the uninitiated are bound to have a dramatic reaction. I’ve seen people immediately spit it out. Sometimes, they just do that dance we’ve probably all done one or twice; their hand over their mouth as they can’t decide if they can swallow or not—which, of course, just prolongs the aftertaste!
Anyway, bitter aftertaste aside, I love it. I can’t tell you why (and why you very well may, too), but you just have to try it. Knowing that the bitterness is coming may actually make your first taste more enjoyable!
You can get fresh homemade tastes of mauby on many islands. Just be aware that true to the eclectic nature of each individual destination, it may taste slightly different and even have a slightly different name. So, remember mabi in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, maby, maubi in the Virgin Islands, or mavi in Puerto Rico.
Also, keep in mind that if you find a truly authentic batch of mauby, you’ll be in for a treat. Because traditionally, it was fermented and therefore had some alcohol content! Mmmm… Mauby buzz…
Of course, for an easy fix, you can grab a bottle of Mauby Fizzz (and even Diet Mauby Fizzz) in many island groceries or just order a batch online. Made in Trinidad, it’s probably the most widely available commercial version of this quintessentially Caribbean refreshment.
Just make sure it’s as cold as possible. Ever taste a warm root beer? A warm mauby is much, much worse!
What are the benefits of drinking mauby?
Mauby has been proven to reduce high blood pressure when paired with coconut water. Other benefits include relieving arthritis, reducing cholesterol, treating diarrhea, and supposedly even fighting diabetes. (Though, that last one I don’t buy at all considering the amount of sugar usually found in each glass!)
And as you’d expect with a West Indian drink, there are also claims that it’s a powerful aphrodisiac and provider of a “strong back” for men—along the lines of bois bande. But, basically every strong Caribbean drink is purported to provide those prodigious male enhancements, so your mileage may vary.
Whatever health benefits it may have, you really can’t go wrong. So, don’t be afraid of that bite, Just try it!