When my sister first visited and then lived in Buenos Aires in 2010 she spoke (and blogged) about yerba mate.  This tea-style drink was an Argentine staple, and actually fairly common throughout South America.  I had heard of "mate" from my visits to Argo Tea when I enjoyed the Roasted Mate or Mate Latte.  The flavor, I recalled, was slightly bitter, but very robust and "chewy" and Argo did a great job of making this drink accessible to the masses.

When I walked out of Ezeiza Airport in Buenos Aires in August 2010, my sister greeted me with an enormous hug and thrust a wooden cup/chalice with a metal spoon/straw in my face.  This was mate.

Well, actually the cup was the mate and the green stuff inside was the yerba.  The metal straw was a bombilla and I was not allowed to touch it.  The tea was delicious and when I handed the "empty" (water-less) mate back to my sister and said "Gracias, Julia" she quickly noted that saying "Gracias" while drinking mate signals that you are finished and would not like anymore.  Wow, I had a lot to learn.

[I could write a very long post about mate (which I may do....), but this post is about my experiment today with yerba mate.]

I own a mate and yerba and a bombilla.  I'm lacking in a thermos to hold and dispense the hot water, but if I wanted to make do I definitely could.  However, due to the lack of understanding in the US around the customs of drinking mate, I decided that bringing all the supplies into the office is probably more hassle than it's worth.

The plot thickens.

While tidying up my kitchen I came across a loose-tea infuser from David's Tea that my roommate had stashed away.  Figuring that all I needed to create a yerba mate drink was a vessel to hold the yerba, hot water, and a device to keep from drinking the tea leaves, I thought this could be a new solution to my yerba mate cravings.  Also, on the David's Tea website, they sell a variety of mate based teas so how hard/bad/inauthentic could this turn out?

Today I experimented.  Using Taragui Yerba and the David's Tea Infuser.  The result is good.

The espuma (foam, bubbles) is a sign of a good mate!

Some things I need to consider for next time:

  • Do not overfill the infuser.  A little yerba goes a long way.  Also, if it's over packed with yerba you can't put a lot of water in and then you don't have as much tea to drink!
  • Little steeping is needed.  The yerba is fairly potent. Unlike using a tea bag, the hot water does not need to hang out with the yerba for a long time before producing the delicious beverage.  I let my first round sit for 3-5 minutes and the result was a very dark and very strong tea.
  • There is a reason the bombilla is used.  As I said, this tea is strong and dark.  I have a vague sense that drinking this all day sans bombilla will cause my teeth to rot out of my head.  I know coffee does damage to tooth enamel but I think mate may be even worse. (But I will probably continue to use this infuser option and no bombilla in the near future.)


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