Trivia Answer: What is the source of amylase for the conversion of yucca starch into sugar necessary the fermentation of the Amazonian libation known as Masato?

Updated: August 14, 2015
Masato Making

Human saliva.

Masato is a type of chicha, which in turn is a fermented type of beer produced in South and Central America; non-fermented chicha is also made for children’s consumption. Chicha includes corn beer known as chicha de jora and non-alcoholic beverages such as chicha morada. Chichas can also be made from manioc root (also called yuca or cassava), grape, apple or various other fruits.

Throughout the Amazon Basin (including the interiors of Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil), chicha is made most often with cassava (yuca) root, sometimes with plantain.

Traditionally, women in the tribe prepare the chicha from cassava by chewing pieces of the boiled and peeled root thoroughly for ~30 minutes, and the resulting masticated goo is spat into a “batan”, which looks a little like a small canoe. The material is left to ferment within the batan for 1-4 days.

This chicha is a opaque bluish white, similar in appearance to defatted milk, and its flavor is mildly sweet and sour. Cassava root is high in starch and the enzyme amylase within the chewer’s saliva hydrolyzes the starch into sugar, which then can be fermented into ethanol by wild yeast and/or bacteria.

As an aside, all alcohol products derived from starchy sources must first be converted into sugars by the enzymes amylase. Sources of amylase other than from human spit include the more aesthetically pleasing malted grains.

Malt is germinated cereal grains that have been dried in a process known as “malting”. The grains are made to germinate by soaking in water, and are then halted from germinating further by drying with hot air. Malting grains develop amylase and other enzymes such as proteases, the latter which help make protein-based nutrients more accessible to the fermenting microorganisms.

Video: Making Mazato drink in Angoteros (Peru) > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKz0M0FXlNI
Video: Traditional chicha brewer in Peru > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fcf8WUB33hg

1) https://www.scribd.com/doc/55018448/Burden-of-Dreams-Les-Blank
2) http://pcbg-peru.blogspot.com/2008/02/making-masato-jungle-beer.html
3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malt#Malting

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