Mauby is a unique, sweetened drink that is popular in the Caribbean.
Here’s everything you’ll want to know about mauby plus my own recipe.
What is mauby
Mauby is a light brown, refreshing drink made by brewing the bark of the soldierwood tree (Colubrina elliptica) or greenheart tree (Colubrina arborescens). Spices including cinnamon, clove, and aniseed are brewed together with the bark. The drink is very bitter and must be sweetened with copious amounts of sugar to be enjoyed.
The soldierwood and greenheart trees are native to the Caribbean region, so mauby is most popular on the islands.
Mauby has different names depending on the language of the island. In the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, the drink is called maví or mabí. In countries with French influence, it is called mabi and in the English-speaking Caribbean, it is mauby.
On most islands, the drink is often left to ferment on the countertop for a few days. This process reduces the bitterness and adds a fizziness to the drink.
In T&T, however, fermenting is not common. We simply brew the bark with the spices, dilute and sweeten until it is just right.
What is in this mauby drink recipe
For this recipe, I used:
- mauby bark (you can get this on Amazon)
- star anise
- bay leaf
Here’s a look at the ingredients (left is the mauby bark; top left to right are cloves, cinnamon, star anise; bottom left to right are the bay leaf and lots of aniseed).
There are more flavorings you can add to mauby. Here are just a few:
- orange peel
- half an orange
How does mauby taste
Brewed mauby bark without any spices has a very bitter taste. Brewed with the spices, the mauby takes on the flavor profiles of the dominant spices but must be sweetened and diluted to be enjoyed as a unique, refreshing drink. Aniseed and star anise with their licorice-like flavors most often dominate the taste of mauby.
If you prefer other flavors like cinnamon or clove, add more of them during the brewing stage.
How to make mauby
This mauby recipe does not involve fermentation. It simply involves brewing the mauby bark with selected spices, then cooling, steeping, diluting and sweetening. Making mauby this way is a straightforward process and can take as little as 3 hours to make or as long as a day. It all depends on how long you leave the bark and spices to steep.
Brew the bark and spices
Place a small pot on medium heat. Add 3 cups of water, the mauby bark and spices.
Allow to boil for 20 minutes or so. The smell of all the spices will fill your space with an amazing aroma. It is wonderful and comforting.
After 20 minutes, turn off the heat.
Leave to steep
Set the brew aside to steep anywhere from 3 hours to overnight. The longer the steep time, the darker the drink and the more flavor will be drawn out of the spices.
Here I left the mauby for about 3 hours to steep. The color was fairly light as you can see. It was bitter but the dominant flavors were the star anise and aniseed – which are my favorites.
Strain the spices out of the drink.
Sweeten and dilute
All that’s left to do now is to dilute and sweeten the drink to your liking.
If you add sugar only to the mauby without any water, it will become thick, sticky and syrup-like. This is mauby concentrate and you can bottle and refrigerate it. When you are ready, simply dilute with enough cold water and ice to your liking and serve. The concentrate will last for several days if not weeks in the fridge.
I prefer to sweeten and dilute the mauby drink. Here, I added about 100 grams of brown sugar and close to four cups of cold water. The resulting mauby was strong and sweet with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
My dad said the mauby tasted like what he enjoyed growing up. Heh!
Mauby bark benefits
Traditionally, mauby has been used to help with inflammation, arthritis and diabetes. However, there has been little research into the benefits of drinking mauby.
What should be mentioned here is the amount of sugar needed to sweeten mauby can do more harm. So, like with all sweetened drinks, moderation is key.
Here are a few proven benefits of the mauby drink.
Mauby contains antioxidants
A 2018 study found brewed mauby from mauby bark contained polyphenol compounds. These compounds were found to have free radical scavenging and antioxidant benefits. This could mean mauby may help to reduce oxidative damage to the body.
A more recent study from 2020 looked at the strength and effectiveness of the antioxidants in mauby compared to the antioxidants in coffee. Coffee had more powerful antioxidants, but mauby’s antioxidants were just as effective.
This further confirms mauby has antioxidant benefits.
Mauby may reduce blood pressure
In a small Trinidadian study from 2005, coconut water, mauby and a combination of coconut water and mauby were all found to reduce blood pressure. However, the study was very small with seven participants per group. And it was difficult to determine if the coconut water or mauby actually caused the blood pressure reductions.
Still, it is important to discuss the research.
In the study, the participants were given 300 mL of bottled water; or coconut water; or mauby (concentrate mixed with bottled water in a 1:30 ratio); or coconut water-mauby combination (concentrate mixed with coconut water in a 1:30 ratio). They were required to drink their assigned drink 2 times a day for 2 weeks.
Their blood pressure readings were taken after resting for 15 minutes. By the way, many were on antihypertensive meds.
The researchers found the 7 participants in the coconut water group had lower systolic and diastolic pressure readings. Five participants in the mauby group showed minor reductions in blood pressure. And significant reductions were seen in the coconut water-mauby group.
It was suggested that the potassium content in the coconut water may have played a role in these reductions in blood pressure. So, it is difficult to attribute these benefits to mauby.
The bottom line is we need more research to know for sure.
Mauby bark and diabetes
Although many drink unsweetened mauby to help with diabetes, this 1997 study did not find any anti-diabetic activity that would lower blood glucose levels.
Possible drug interaction
One case, published in 2016, found a possible drug interaction between taking warfarin and drinking mauby. So, if you are taking anticoagulants, be sure to talk to your health care professional before drinking mauby regularly.
Where to find mauby
Skip the brewing process and pick up the mauby on Amazon. You’ll most often find mauby concentrate so you’ll need to dilute before serving. There are lots of great options but here are just a few.
Mauby drink recipe
Simple mauby drink using mauby bark
- 8 g mauby bark
- 2 tsp aniseed
- 10 cloves
- 2 star anise
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cinnamon stick
- 7 cups water
- 100 g sugar
- Place a small pot on medium heat.
- Add 3 cups of water to the pot.
- Mix in mauby bark, aniseed, cloves, star anise, bay leaf, and cinnamon.
- Boil for 20 minutes.
- Turn off heat and set aside for 3 hours to overnight.
- Add sugar and remaining water to sweeten and dilute.
- Taste test and adjust by adding more sugar or water.
- Serve cold.