Guarango is a traditional fermented beverage based of agave sap, consumed during the festival of the Summer Solstice and other celebrations. It is mainly connected to the region of Pichincha and the community of the Cayambi, but even before the arrival of the Spanish, agave sap was consumed in the Equatorial Andes. It is locally known as “chaguarmishky” (another Ark of Taste product).
The production of this sap takes time: a plant produces sap between 12 and 15 years of age and only for a period of between 40 and 90 days. The production technique is very old and was passed on from generation to generation. Through fermentation the guarango is obtained: Chaguarmishky is boiled until foam forms and then left to cool. Once cold, a bit of guarango (made previously) is added to start the fermentation process; after reaching its final alcohol level, the beverage is ready and could be called an Andean beer. The flavor is very similar to Mexican Pulque or Tlachique, but in Ecuador the sap is boiled prior to fermentation, a step that is omitted in Mexico.
Besides being a beverage, the indigenous communities also use guarango to marinate and cook meat or prepare cuy, a typical dish made with guinea pig.
Guarango also has medicinal properties and can be used to treat and prevent gastritis, as it helps to restore the intestinal flora. It is also used to treat infertility.
Not everyone knows this beverage in Ecuador. The introduction of beers and other alcoholic beverages has additionally reduced the use of guarango and many youngsters nowadays prefer industrially produced beverages. The diminishing consumption is putting this traditional indigenous beverage at risk.
This information was processed from the publication «Atlas del Patrimonio Alimentario de la Provincia de Pichincha», by Javier Carrera, Claudia Garcia and Catalina Unigarro, from June 2014, promoted by the Ministerio de Cultura y Patrimonio del Ecuador, by Valeria Merlo.