Sunday, May 20, 2007
My New Buzz
I'm a coffee drinker from way back. I love a cafe au lait in the morning and iced latte in the afternoon. But I discovered something that's giving my old love a run for its money. My new favorite buzz-worthy drink is a South American tea called Yerba Mate (pronounced 'mah-tay').
It's the national drink of Uruguay and Argentina and has been drunk for centuries all over South America. Traditionally imbibed through a metal straw (called a bombilla) from a hollow gourd, it's shared family-style at gatherings and special events. When I was in Ecuador last fall, I saw instant yerba mate powder in a grocery store and on the shelf of a guinea pig farmer's kitchen. My Argentinian friend Vanessa's mom drinks it several times a day and swears it's the source of her boundless energy.
It just may be, because it has caffeine but doesn't cause jitters like the caffeine in coffee or regular tea, which is great. It's also considered a cure-all in South America (though I haven't seen any magic healing effects thus far) and it contains a bunch of antioxidants — even more than green tea.
The flavor is hard to describe. It's herbal and grassy, kind of smoky, and maybe it's just my overactive imagination, but it tastes almost ancient to me. My favorite way to drink it is in a "mate latte" with soy milk and honey. I've also had it iced — a company called Guayaki bottles it with fruit juice and also sells loose tea and tea bags.
I wouldn't say I'm a convert — I'll always be a coffee girl — but yerba mate is a definite keeper. If you enjoy herbal tea, give it a try...