Steeped in the Past: Yerba Mate is More Than Just a Healthy Coffee Alternative
This is a guest post written by our friends at www.yerbamontana.com
Flavors can transport us, far beyond the boundaries of where we are or have ever been, to parts of the globe we’d never dream of visiting. A curry can land you in Thailand, a fresh crust in France, a lobster in Maine… eating any of these delicious foods with your eyes closed will take you right to where you imagine the best of that food came from.
After all, who doesn’t like to imagine that their dishes are as good as they have ever been prepared? Sinking your teeth into something, though, is still an activity that’s solidly rooted in the here and now, and it’s the beverages so cherished by international cultures that are capable of sending you not only to parts unknown but back in time as well.
A sip of yerba mate out of a simply carved, comfortable drinking gourd sends me on a journey to the Patagonia’s southernmost massifs, where European alpinists first sighted their prized granite spires, invigorating themselves in the doorway of a small hut before taking off up the walls.
Photo credit: http://www.afar.com/places/southern-patagonia-timaukel
From there, I imagine myself taking a break from the hot sun and hard work on a farm in rural Paraguay, drinking the cold-brewed mate drink called tereré, or in neighboring Uruguay or Brazil on the coast, watching the sails of the first conquistadores arrive across the ocean.
Mate has been a staple of South American societies’ diets for at least half a millennium and means much more to people than just a way to get through the day. Virtually every picnic, conference, or celebration held in the Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, or Uruguay include some form of drinking and sharing drinks made with yerba mate, and their age old love of the product is rubbing off on us—thankfully so!
Today, one glance at the shelves of any grocery store tea aisle lets you know that we’re not quite sure where the roots of our tea tree stem from. Black tea, green tea, coffee, and yerba are all available… I think many people would rather just skip the aisle altogether and grab a Red Bull from the cooler by the register, which is really quite a shame, because healthier stimulants make for happier people, and mate in particular is proving that we don’t have to kill ourselves to wake up.
How Does Yerba Mate Compare With Coffee?
Apart from the caffeine level in mate, which is much lower than that of coffee or even tea leaves when brewed in a bag as a single serving, the drink contains well balanced levels of the cheery alkaloids we crave from chocolate and coffee, and theophylline, which has a soothing effect on the respiratory and circulatory systems. Yerba also boasts impressive amounts of iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium, and especially when brewed cold, surpasses the healthiness of its competitors in nearly every way.
Don’t think for a second that mate is just for health nuts, hippies, or hipsters—mate’s availability is spreading rapidly, and people are finding that the ease with which it can be made, transported, and enjoyed appeals strongly to them. Mate also has a pleasant, slightly bitter flavor that goes well with any palette you care to mix it with, including fruit, mint, basil, chocolate, and dairy; I doubt it will be too long before commuters in the Starbucks’ drive-through are switching out their hazelnut drinks for mate-mint lattes.
peruser, the mate gourd has a place, and its purpose is to wind back the clock just as much as it is to wind up the consumer. Take a second look when next you go to pull your PG Tips or Seattle’s Best off the shelf, and try something different if you haven’t. Not everything is for everybody, but one thing I can promise about yerba mate; your first sample will be like taking a taste of the big picture.
From the desk of a time cruncher to the chairside table of a late morning paper peruser, the mate gourd has a place, and its purpose is to wind back the clock just as much as it is to wind up the consumer. Take a second look when next you go to pull your PG Tips or Seattle’s Best off the shelf, and try something different if you haven’t. Not everything is for everybody, but one thing I can promise about yerba mate; your first sample will be like taking a taste of the big picture.