While tuba isn’t indigenous to Mexico and the word doesn’t come from the Spanish language, tuba is certainly part of the Malecón or beach experience in Puerto Vallarta. Having traveled across the Atlantic from the Philippines in the 16th century, when both countries were under the dominion of Spain, this coconut-based drink found its first American home in Colima, considered its place of origin in Mexico.
Don Miguel, who hawks tuba on the Malecón in downtown Puerto Vallarta, says, “Tuba is pretty much available all along the coast, wherever there are people on the beaches. I used to sell south of here, but four years ago they gave a license for selling on the Malecón.” Going out daily, he acknowledges seasonal variations. “The best season is the winter, when visitors come from colder areas in the north. They walk around in shorts and look for tuba. I have clients who ask for tuba in large amounts for a reunion or party.”
He mixes it at home. Fermentation is part of the process, but tuba is appreciated as non-alcoholic refreshment. Traditionally, the sap of the coconut palm flower was collected in the morning, only from female palms not destined to be harvested for coconuts. The concentrate is the modern secret, he says. “When people ask me for the recipe, I have no problem giving it to them. I’m not egotistical.” In a few short hours, the fermentation process begins, faster as the day warms up. The container used to draw off the sap was of clay, like the containers the tuberos (tuba vendors) use to vend the tuba.
Now, many collectors use plastic, a lighter material, but since it doesn’t insulate from warmer temperatures, the collection process must be handled much more quickly.
The tubero mixes in clean, chipped ice to keep the tuba fresh and, upon serving to clients, adds chopped apples and walnuts. A medium-size plastic cup runs $10 pesos, while the larger size costs $15. Have you had your tuba treat today?