Betel nuts (areca nuts) in Taiwan

The areca nut, widely known as the betel nut because it is wrapped in betel leaves before consumption, is popular throughout Asia.

When ripe, the nut is soft enough to be easily chewed. It is said to give chewers a slight buzz, similar to, but perhaps slightly stronger than, nicotine or coffee.

Last night I chewed three betel nuts, back to back to back, but didn't feel much of anything. It takes maybe five or 10 minutes before the nut is so mushy it's best to spit it out entirely.

The bet nut is a natural color, similar to macadamia, and the fresh betel husk in which it is wrapped is green, but when chewed together the pair turns a bright red, eventually staining your teeth if you develop a habit. I have no idea whether or not it is addictive, but it makes you salivate heavily, so if you chew betel nut expect to be spitting red for the duration of your adventure. It is probably unwise to swallow your chewed-betel-nut saliva.

In Taiwan, small bags containing maybe a dozen or so areca nuts, with betel nut leaves, are available for 50 TWD (~$1.75 USD). They are often sold in Taiwan by betel nut beauties (檳榔西施), scantily clad young Taiwanese women selling betel nuts and cigarettes, but we purchased our betel nuts from what I presume was a family, on the side of the road with a kiosk.

I might give them another shot, but they don't taste great (to be fair, nor do they taste bad) and you'll want to spit roughly every 30 seconds, plus it immediately made me feel like I wanted to floss and brush my teeth, not to mention the fact that betel nuts are carcinogenic.