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The origin of cajuína is rooted in the indigenous history. The cashew tree, originally from the Amazon, migrated to the Northeast and prospered to the point of becoming one of the fruits most-associated to the zone.


Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 30/04/2015

By: Júlia Morim - N/I

Non-alcoholic, clarified, sterilized and made from cashew-fruit juice, with a yellowy-amber colour from the caramelization of the juice’s natural sugars, cajuína is a traditional drink in Northeast Brazil. Produced and consumed in the states of Maranhão, Ceará and Piauí, it is more common in the latter, where it has become one of the most well-kanown, widespread and celebrated symbols of popular culture. Its name derives from the Tupi “acaju” or “acâi-ou”, meaning “fruit that is produced, fruit from the yellow berry”, which is the cashew fruit we know and enjoy today.

The origin of cajuína is rooted in the indigenous history. The cashew tree, originally from the Amazon, migrated to the Northeast and prospered to the point of becoming one of the fruits most-associated to the zone. The custom of “cauinagem” was traditional among Brazilian native populations, meriting the description of ‘ritual’. It was the transformation of the abundant cashew fruit into cauim, a drink served to and sipped by all. With the integration of indigenous and white peoples, the descendants of Portuguese and Africans came a miscegenation and assimilation of customs. Thus, the cauim became cajuína, adopting a feminine nomenclature doing justice to its production – the drink was made only by women. Taken by the indigenous routes that crossed the country, cashew consumption became popular in the same proportion to its medicinal use. When, over the years, the cashew nut acquired a high mercantile value, becoming included in the list of export products, Brazilian agro-industrial policies valued cashews and determined the emergence of large plantations, which also contributed to the spread of cajuína.

Made in an artisanal fashion, it contains no artificial chemical additives in its composition and production. The preparation begins with cashew juice and separating the tannin that exists in the fruit with the addition of a precipitating agent. Previously, this role was performed by cashew resin; decades later, it became shoe glue and nowadays it is gelatin powder. The mixture is then strained repeatedly through nets or cloth funnels in a process called clarification. The clarified juice is then cooked in bain-marie, already in glass bottles, until its sugars are caramelized. This allows for the beverage to be stored for periods of up to two years before being enjoyed or marketed.

It is interesting to note that the traditional way of producing cajuína was developed and perfected over time. As much as the techniques are similar, each producer formulated specific improvements and sought to improve techniques to distinguish their flavours. That is why every bottle of cajuína has the universal taste, but also the nuances of the region where it is produced. On the roads of Piauí, in country town or even in the markets of Teresina, the state capital, visitors can choose from various “brands” of cajuína, knowing they’re sampling a product of pride for the people of Piauí, and one that ennobles them.

For all that, the state fought for the practice and customs that involve making process of cajuína to be historically legitimized. In 2014, the Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN) officially recorded the Traditional Production and Sociocultural Practices Associated with Cajuína in Piauí as a Brazilian Cultural Heritage. Among the reasons cited was the certainty that for centuries it has been in the hearts and minds of Northeasterners: cajuína is more than a drink or a mandatory item in traditional festivals; it is an element that brings together hospitality values and the bonds between the producer families.

The registration application was submitted by the Cooperative of Piaui Cajuína Producers (CAJUESPI) with support from the Government of Piauí and with the understanding that this is a cultural asset that emerged from a socio-emotional ritual – as bottles were given as gifts for birthdays, baptisms, weddings and other celebratory events. Although a drink, cajuína is considered a food and belongs to the category of sweets, cakes, biscuits and other knowledge (some of them, such as the tapioca from Alto da Sé in Olinda, or acarajé from Salvador have also been ratified as intangible heritages) from northeastern homes. Its presence is a strong component in the process of belonging and identity of people from Piauí and Brazilians.

Recife, 25 May 2014.
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2015.

sources consulted

CAJUÍNA. In: ENCICLOPÉDIA Nordeste. Available at: <>. Acesso em: 16 maio 2014.

FUNDAC. Processo de declaração de relevante interesse cultural do modo de fazer tradicional da cajuína no estado do Piauí. maio 2008. Available at: <>. Accessed: 2 maio 2014. 

IPHAN. CAJUÍNA do Piauí é o mais novo Patrimônio Cultural Brasileiro.  Available at:  <> . Accessed: 16 maio 2014.

RIBEIRO, May Waddington Telles. A cajuína em dois momentos do processo de modernização do Piauí. Rev. de Economia Agrícola, São Paulo, v. 58, n. 1, p. 55-71, jan./jun. 2011. Available at: <>. Accessed: 5 maio 2014.

how to quote this text

Source: MORIM, Júlia. Cajuína. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.