In the Andean region, chicha refers to a fermented beverage brewed by the indigenous people. It is traditionally prepared from a specific kind of yellow maize (jorra) and is usually referred to as chicha de jorra. It has a pale straw color, a slightly milky appearance, and a slightly sour aftertaste. It is drunken either young and sweet or mature and strong. It contains a slight amount of alcohol, 1-3%.
Chicha de jorra is prepared by germinating maize, extracting the malt sugars, boiling the wort, and fermenting it in large vessels, traditionally huge eartheware vats, for several days.
Chicha de jorra has been prepared and consumed in communities throughout in the Andes for millennia. In the Incan Empire, chicha was used for ritual purposes and was consumed in vast quantities during religious festivals. In recent years, however, the traditionally prepared chicha is becoming increasingly rare. Only in a small number of towns and villages in southern Peru and Bolivia is it still prepared.
In Peru, mature chicha is used in cooking as a kind of cooking wine, in, for example, seco de cabrito (stewed goat).
There are various regional varieties of chicha.
In Lima and other large coastal cities, chicha morada is prepared from maize morado (purple corn). It is usually sweet and consumed cold like a softdrink. It is even industrially prepared and sold in bottles and cans.
In and around Cuzco, strawberries are added chicha in season to make frutilla.
In Puno, chicha can be found made from quinoa. It is very pale in color, almost white.
In the town of Huanta, chicha de molle is prepared from the small, reddish seeds of the molle tree. It is very rare and perhaps the most delicately flavored chicha.
In Peru, Chicha is also a term used to denote an informal, transient arrangement, or a street vendor.
In other Latin American countries, chicha can simply refer to a softdrink.
The word chicha is found in a common expression in Spanish: