The Bittersweet Secret of the Caribbean No More

I admit it… Mauby, a bark-based Caribbean drink, is a drink I have a love-hate relationship with. Love in terms of nostalgia… Hate in terms of flavor. However, as a Barbadian, I feel I must take up my claim to an undeniable part of my heritage and the wider Caribbean region – this particularly good-for-you drink is fast gaining traction as a functional beverage. global market.

By way of promotion, mauby (mauby in the British Caribbean, blue in the Spanish Caribbean, and mabi in the French Caribbean) is a centuries-old beer made from the bark of the columbrina elliptica, better known in the region as the mauby tree. boiled with sugar and various spices.

Many would agree that this is an acquired taste.

I can’t help but cling to the memories of an innocent childhood in Barbados, where the bitter-sweet aroma of the bark of the snakewood (Colubrina elliptica) tree hits many times. After the first or the hundredth time, you’d think I learned my lesson. But no, the sweltering tropical heat of my childhood home often persuaded me to pull over to the refrigerator door—despite the odds—I would seldom reach for an unmarked sweaty jug of sweet tamarind or apple juice with misplaced hope.


My father would laugh as I squirm in disgust at the sharp taste that seemed to stick to my tongue…

This is true. Mauby is bitter and not for everyone.

Personal feelings aside… Just like that family member you can’t boo until you reach out and raise a foreigner (travel abroad), I’m here on behalf of all Caribbean people to stand up for this cultural phenomenon. because rumor has it our relative is about to take the world by storm.

I mean… According to TechCrunch, the global functional beverage market was valued at almost $130 billion in 2021 and is predicted to drop to $279.4 billion in 2030. New Food Magazine says the top priority for functional beverage consumers is immune, gut and heart health, with mauby’s benefits.

With the health benefits associated with curing arthritis, reducing inflammation, increasing endurance, lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, fighting diabetes and treating gastrointestinal issues, mauby is perfectly poised to take advantage of the functional beverage explosion.

Not to mention, a lot of people (except me) think mauby is refreshing and delicious.

Dad, rest in peace, loved a tall, cold glass of mauby. And he was not alone.

In countries such as Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and other English-speaking Caribbean countries, mauby is synonymous with culture.

In fact, a song called Mauby even won the “Tune of De Crop” award at Barbados’ annual 2022 carnival, better known as Kadooment or Crop Over. Singer Brucelee Almightee (Bruce Robinson) even took the opportunity to support Froots, a popular local mauby brand.

Cultural significance aside, the historical significance of the mauby cannot be denied. The production and consumption of this homemade beer is actually as old as the first humans to inhabit the English-speaking Caribbean.

Richard Ligon’s “A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes” (1657) states that the Carib women of Barbados made “mobbie” (the earliest version of mauby) from red sweet potatoes. Not surprisingly, the Tainos (indigenous Caribbean people of the Caribbean) word for red sweet potato is mâ’bi.

Historians say there is enough evidence to conclude that the drink was designed in the English-speaking Caribbean.

From the 1700s to the 1800s, British colonists in Barbados would develop a fermented version of sweet potato brew, using tree bark instead of sweet potato to replace alcoholic beverages from England. This was consumed across the social spectrum.

African slaves would continue to produce the drink even after the British began replacing it with household alcohol, and Ligon said in his book that the slaves “drank nothing but mobbie.”

Fast forward to the mid-1900s, “mauby women” would become a popular product of Bajan culture, carrying large cans of golden brown beverage on their heads, unleashing faucets to dispense the popular beverage into the cups of those who crave wealth. Syrup flavor of boiled mauby bark with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and orange peel.

Mauby remains one of the region’s most popular drinks today. Few people make their own maubys except for special occasions, because instant syrups that can be mixed with water are much more popular and available in every supermarket. The drink is also featured on numerous regional fast food menus, including Barbados’ famous restaurant, Chefette. Known as Barbados’ “the rum that invented rum,” Mount Gay Rum even produces a spiced rum distilled with mauby rind called Mauby Rum (43°) for the local market.

From an export perspective, Trinidad’s Mauby Fizz is one of the most recognizable mauby brands in the global market and is available at ethnic retailers as well as Amazon.

Outside of the English-speaking Caribbean, Caribbean mauby brands are popping up in ethnic grocery stores and restaurants, and the Latin market has adapted the recipe as blue or mabi.

In Florida, Cuban organic grain and gluten-free bakery and cafe chain Organic Girly (OG) has been producing Blue Clásico fermented with ginger root and Ceylon cinnamon since 2020. OG says: “You either love it or you hate it. There is no in between. arrangement [of] It tastes like root beer but you have to taste it. When fermented like OG does, it’s good for arthritis, lowers cholesterol, treats diarrhea, and can help fight diabetes.”

One of the most popular types of beverage in the US market is MABÏ, made by Dominican Republic-born and Brooklyn-based Ana Bautista.

“As someone born in NYC and raised in the Dominican Republic by a Dominican father and Dominican-Chinese mother, I felt the need to apply more culture to each bottle,” Bautista says.

“We’ve added ingredients from all over the world: our main superstar, mauby bark from the Caribbean, green tea from Asia, hibiscus flowers and monk fruit, chamomile from Egypt, rooibos from South Africa, and the list goes on. “I decided, it’s a remix, if you want to call it that. We put all this goodness together in a recyclable glass bottle and boom, MABÏ was born.”

According to a recent Frito Lay Snack Index, nearly half of snackers want to consume something nostalgic that reminds them of a particular era. Pinterest has pointed to the “ancestral food” and the tendency to go back to one’s roots. For Caribbean folk, the mauby nostalgia is undeniable.

For non-Caribbean, the functional drink movement coupled with the trend of Latino brands means a unique moment for mauby. However, it’s clear that stylish packaging, good-for-you ingredients, and a creative approach to traditional mauby recipes have created more cross-cutting global reach for Latino brands than their Caribbean English-speaking counterparts.

But there’s a lot to be said for authenticity, according to Rebecca Shurhay, a marketing analyst at Flavorchem, Downers Grove, Illinois. Exotic and unexpected flavors attract attention, as well as authentic flavors and ingredients from the region.

The opportunity available for brands from markets such as Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica is to take advantage of the good-for-you elements and cultural and historical authenticity of the Caribbean’s oldest beverage.

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