Yerba Mate: Traditional to On-the-Go
Wrapped in a blanket with two pairs of socks, two sweatshirts, and a pair of sweatpants, I sat shivering on the couch of my new unheated home in the dead of winter. Like many times that week, my family was gathered all around me introducing me to Paraguayan traditions, mostly food and drink, so I could quickly call myself a true Paraguayan. On that gloomy July day my “mother” sat with a thermos full of hot water and a typical Paraguayan drink for the cold weather. As I drank from the metal straw I burnt my lips from the hot water, and my face puckered as if I had just drank something sour. As I passed the cup back to my mother I watched her refill it with hot water and pass it on to the next person. I had just tasted my first of many cups of Yerba Mate.
Yerba Mate comes from the Yerba Mate shrub that grows in South America in humid subtropical climates. The plant grows in parts of Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, and also Argentina (Vanix Inc.). It most resembles tea in the fact that it is produced from the dried leaves of its bush, and consumed by the addition of hot water to extract its flavors. In comparison with tea there are many varying chemical differences, and different effects that Mate has on the body, not to mention the difference in consumption.
Traditionally in South America Yerba Mate is located at any grocery store, or the local cantina, in the same packaging as flour in America. It is pre-grounded and looks much like green hay and partial leaves. It is then placed into a mate, or gourd, with a metal straw, referred to as a bombilla in South America, up to the half-way point because when water is added the Yerba expands and there needs to be room to place the appropriate amount of water. If desired, many people add sugar to the gourd for sweetness against the bitter taste. Hot water is then filled into a thermos and managed by one member of the group who for the entire process will by the distributor of the... [continues]
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