Yerba Mate Gourd, Large 1 (Photo credit: chris.peplin)
It wasn’t until the past couple of years that I started drinking coffee. Don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoy the flavor (though I think it’s kind of false advertising that coffee smell doesn’t equate with coffee taste, but rather the flavor of coffee ice cream). As a caffeine sensitive type, I do better with tea, even though the amount of caffeine in a cup of tea is similar to a cup of coffee. But these days I have learned to really look forward to a cup of coffee over breakfast (even if I can only handle about 4 oz…)
Our company president, Ana, introduced me to the wonders of yerba mate. To be honest, at first, the intensity of the flavor about knocked me on my butt. And not in a good way! But I’ve learned to appreciate the appeal. I think bitterness is an acquired taste, and bitterness is something mate has in spades. And it turns out, that’s a huge part of the appeal!
I’ve come to realize mate offers a lot of perks. Get it, guys? Because of caffeine? I crack myself up…
If you drink your coffee black, you probably have an appreciation for more bitter flavors. While mate doesn’t taste anything like coffee, it is similar in that it has a very strong with a bite to it. Tea drinkers tend to prefer a more mild and mellow flavor.
That’s not to say mate has nothing to offer even a die-hard camellia sinensis loyalist. Flavor-wise, it actually is somewhat reminiscent of a very strongly steeped green tea. Like tea, mate is steeped from dried leaves and is known for it’s vegetal taste.
One of the great things about coffee and tea are the rituals involved. Whether it’s joining friends at a local cafe for an espresso, or a Japanese tea ritual, relaxing over a hot beverage is something everyone can appreciate. Mate drinkers are no different:
As Europeans often meet at a coffee shop, drinking mate is the impetus for gathering with friends in Argentina, southern Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Sharing mate is ritualistic and has its own set of rules. Usually, one person, the host or whoever brought the mate, prepares the drink and refills the gourd with water. In these three countries, the hot water can be contained in a vacuum flask, termo (appropriate for drinking mate in the outside) or garrafa térmica (Brazil), or in a pava (kettle), which only can be done at home.
The gourd is passed around, often in a circle, and each person finishes the gourd before giving it back to the brewer. The gourd (also called a mate) is passed in a clockwise order. Since mate can be rebrewed many times, the gourd is passed until the water runs out. When persons no longer want to take mate, they say gracias (thank you) to the brewer when returning the gourd to signify they do not want any more.
Something tea and coffee drinkers have in common is an appreciation for the soothing nature of a hot beverage. If you’re a fan of either, I suggest you give mate a try. Even if only because it’s served in these adorable little gourds.
If hot beverages aren’t your thing, or hot weather is a consideration, give Guayaki Iced Mate a shot. Though you’ll be missing out on the sweet gourd…