Barbadians will tell you that there is nothing like a refreshing glass of mauby to quench ones thirst. Mauby is a popular local drink made from the mauby bark. During Barbados’ pre-history, mauby was originally made from sweet potatoes adopted by the Amerindians.
The bark of the tree [Colubrina Ellipta] is boiled in water for about an hour, and concentrated to a basic extract which can be kept for some time in the refrigerator. When making the drink, some of the stock is diluted with water, and sugar, spices and essence are added to taste. It is brewed and results in a bitter sweet drink with a frothy head. It is chilled by block of ice which is placed in the can along with the prepared mixture,
In the mid 1900’s, the mauby seller carried the liquid in a bucket on her head. The bucket was supported by placing a piece of cloth or, if cloth was hard to come by, country people used ‘banana leaf’ or ‘cowslip’ (a binding weed, like ivy).
This is stretched out and wrung then wound around into a coil to create the same supporting effect. With great skill and balance, she could tilt the bucket, turn on the tap and dispense the cold liquid for sale to customers on the street.
Though traditionally boiled at home, increasingly, instant mauby syrup, where only water is added to make the drink, is produced commercially, with several brands available in Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
There are also claims that the drink has several health benefits, including easing arthritis, reducing cholesterol, treating diarrhea, and may help fight diabetes. Local folk medicine indicates that it is good for reducing blood pressure because it thins the blood.
The word mauby is said to be derived from the Carib Indian word “mabi”, and is also known in other islands as “mabee” or “mavi”.