Mexico is a land full of ancient beverages, like pulque, tesgüino, and tejate, a sacred drink of the gods brought Los Angeles by the Zapotec people from the Valles Centrales. Tejate is made with toasted corn, fermented cacao beans, pixtle (toasted and ground mamey pits), and cacao flowers, which are ground into a paste that’s mixed with water and stirred by hand into a smooth mixture.
It’s a frothy, nutritious beverage that’s drunk naturally with ice or some added sugar. In the Tlacolula Market, tejateras (tejate makers) lift jicaras (calabash gourds) to head level and ceremonially pour their tejate slowly into a large clay bowl to maintain the mixture and attract customers with cascading falls of chocolaty liquid that would tempt Augustus Gloop. You can try tejate at Doña Roberta’s stand on West Adams and at the annual Feria de Tejate that’s held on the Westside each September.
Tejate Doña Roberta Estilo San Marcos
Outside of the St. Agatha Cathoic Church in West Adams. Catch Doña Roberta on the weekend representing Valles Centrales culture and history, proudly pouring and stirring this refreshing beverage at her stand. There’s ritual in the preparation and consumption as you cup both hands around the ornate jícara (gourd) and slowly tilt the bowlful of frothy drink to your lips.
A visit to Doña Roberta’s stand feels like a Sunday in Tlacolula, watching her work the tejate while a nearby vendor warms empanadas de mole amarillo on a flat top grill. That smile she turns on when scooping up her tejate to mix it is pride in her culture and craft. “Let me make you a fresh batch — it’ll only take a minute — no way, there’s no way I’m going to serve it to you like this,” Doña Roberta says. In addition to the regular cacao and corn-based tejate, she also has a coconut tejate and nicuatole (a gelatinous dessert prepared with ground corn and sugar). Even the rarest of Oaxaca dishes, like tejate, can be found right in our own backyard.
Tejate Doña Roberta Estilo San Marcos is open weekends on the southeast corner of W. Adams and S. Mansfield Ave. in front of the St. Agatha Catholic Church at 2646 S Mansfield Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90016, West Adams, Los Angeles.