It goes without saying that when you are on a tropical island you drink quite a lot. Both because it is hot, and because you are in a holiday mood. These are my 3 favourite Mauritian drinks (surprisingly only one of them contain alcohol!).
In the southern highlands, the landscape is quite different to the usual sugar cane fields and tea plantations stretch across large expanses of land. In the middle of the fields lies Bois Cheri, the island’s largest tea producer. Here, you can go on a guided tour of the factory to learn all about the process to make tea. The most popular brew from Bois Cheri is without doubt their black tea infused with vanilla. It is mild, with a touch of vanilla without tasting sweet and is perfect at any time of the day.
Included in the tour at Bois Cheri is also a tea tasting, where you can go wild and taste as many brews as you like. They do quite a few fruit infusions, like coconut, but also classics like Earl Grey. There is a restaurant with views across the tea plantations and all the way to the coast, which is a good option for lunch. Give the western style food a skip, and go for a typical Mauritian dish. Their curries are good value on an otherwise somewhat overpriced menu. If you come in hunting season, you might be lucky enough to get a deer curry but otherwise the fish and octopus ones are also yummy.
Alouda is a Mauritian drink made with milk, condensed milk, sugar, agar agar (a clear jelly) and basil seeds. It is sweet, but cold and refreshing, and the agar agar and basil seeds make it a little “chewy” which makes it feel like a little meal in itself. You can buy Alouda in the supermarket, but the best way is to get it straight from a street vendor. The most common flavours are vanilla, strawberry and almond. I prefer plain vanilla. At some places, it will be “assembled” on the spot whereas others are in big containers. The best one I ever had was at the Mahebourg market, where the man added seeds and agar agar to the cup, topped up with the milk mixture and finished off with a generous spoonful of vanilla ice cream.
With 85% of Mauritius’ arable land cultivated with sugarcane, there is little surprise that rum is the national tipple. Mauritian rum is smooth, with very little alcohol feel (despite being very potent). It comes in many different forms; dark and white, different flavours and different methods of distillation. Look out for “rum agriculture” which is made from cane juice (as opposed to “industrial rum” that is made from bi-products in the sugar making process). This artisanal way of making rum is practiced by a few distilleries, like Chamarel and St Aubin. Many artisanal distilleries also offer tours of the rum making facilities, finished off with a tasting of their various products. Chamarel is my favourite: a small distillery, situated in the beautiful mountainous area outside Chamarel town. Their guides are incredibly knowledgeable, and the rum is delicious. Don’t miss the double-distilled reserve!
Most restaurants make their own infused rum, using vanilla pods or fruit, and often offer their clients a little tot after the meal. A good, dark vanilla infused rum is best enjoyed with just a bit of ice. Another popular way to serve rum is a “ti punch”; literally a fruit cocktail with a rum base but most often just rum, sugar, lime juice and crushed ice. This is an excellent sundowner!