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Can I Bring Coca Tea From Peru to the US?

June 18, 2014|Posted in: Peru, Peruvian Food

coca tea

Coca is everywhere in Cusco, Peru. Many hotels display baskets of coca leaves and serve coca tea in their lobbies. Coca is the star attraction at the Coca Shop in Cusco. There you can sample a range of tasty products in which coca is a key ingredient. Coca is also an important part of ceremonial offerings.

Before I hiked the Inca Trail, I bought a small bag of coca leaves in the San Pedro Market. I brought the leaves to chew while I hiked and to share with our porters. (They really do help prevent altitude sickness.)

In this environment, coca leaves seem innocuous. However, people use these same leaves in the production of cocaine—a not so innocuous drug. As a result, when you reenter the United States from Peru, customs officers are always on the lookout for any type of coca product in your luggage.I cannot say with certainty that bringing coca products home to the United States is illegal. (After all, you can order coca tea from However, it hardly seems worth the hassle. Better to leave coca in Cusco than to risk the ire of US customs officers when they find coca tea, for example, tucked into your suitcase.


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