Saturday, July 21, 2007

Yerba Mate.. what and why

So I'm in a Flickr group and the question was posed. What am I drinking from and why do I do it? I was invited to write about Yerba Mate. So I wrote up a little something.. something that I shall share here as well.. cause I did all that typing anyways :)

So.. you'd like to know a thing or two about Yerba Mate? Then you've come to the right place my friend. You could peruse what I'm about to write here, or.. you could go to here , or you could do both. Your call.

Yerba Mate is a tea. A tea that comes from a variety of holly plant, first used in the region of what is called Paraguay. (hence the name Ilex paraguariensis , Ilex = holly family, paraguariensis = having something to do with paraguay? Odds are yes.)

I'll bust out the reasons I think it's so kick ace for ya now, in a rudimentary approximation of the order that I appreciate the most.

Accredited to first being drank by the Guarani natives of South America (Have you seen the movie "The Mission" with Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, and Liam Neeson?) and , there's a sweet legend of the plant being given to a farmer and his wife by the moon in appreciation for the kindness they showed to her when she was walking the earth. The drinking of the Yerba infusion was then picked up by Jesuit Priests who, I believe, were the first Europeans to really rock out the green goodness. It is now drank through out South America, primarily in (in alphabetical order to avoid acusations of favoritism) Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay (which also happen to be the regions it grows in). It has spread beyond South America and is also enjoyed in populations in several Arab countires, as well as North America. And I start with speaking of tradition for it merges with, and leads to, what is most likely one of my most favorite aspects of drinking Yerba Mate.... (excited yet?)

Oh yes, oh yes indeed. For me, Yerba Mate is a reminder and connection to my friends. My brothers and sisters who have shared of my guampa (cup) and shared theirs with me. This is part of the tradtion of Yerba Mate. In most places and cultures there is a fairly ritualized system of verbal cues, and non-verbal rules, that are followed when participating in a yerba mate circle. It is this inclusion and sharing that create something that is much more than just a drink. It is a connection to friends, to relationship, to the land. Though you can also drink it by yourself, and many do, for it is said to have some rather great....

Health Benefits
First off, contrary to what you may hear, Yerba Mate does have caffeine, though some people may erroneously say that it contains mateine instead.. but a chemical break down has shown it to be caffeine. The amount of which is around half that of coffee. It also has 2 other stimulants of the Xanthene family. So why drink Yerba? It can help you stay awake, or energized, without keeping you awake when you want to go to sleep (unless you hit a whole lot of the stuff.. then you can get a tad buzzed). It is purported to be full of anti-oxidants (like most green teas) that fight the evil free radicals!! Mwa ha ha ha ha. I also have a thought that if you drink mate in the traditional way (ie through the multiple infusion process of drinking much water repeatedly through the same container) you would encounter less caffeine then in the coffee method.. since each new cup of coffee ='s the same amount of caffeine as the last cup. Plus it's alot better for you than drinking alot of other beverages like pop, or warm beverages full of milk and sugar. (Note: I drink my yerba mate without milk or sugar, but it is common in certain culture's traditions to drink mate with milk and/or sugar)

When you break down the price of buying the equipment (be it gourd, horn, or wooden mate) and bombillia (straw) and the cost of a kilo of yerba, you're saving mad cash over buying a coffee or tea every day. As a student I think this is a great option when compared with coffee or other such beverage (like how much would it cost if I drank Red Bull instead? Yowza!)

The last time I went in to my local coffee shop I was blown away at how many disposable cups are filled with hot beverage every day and then thrown away. Sure they're made from recycled product (hopefully) and sometimes recycled (possibly) but a great number still end up heading to the landfill, or on the side of the road. Whereas I've been drinking from the same guampa (my beautiful and wonderful horn) for the better part of 5 years? And I'm on only my second bombilia (straw). I think I prefer impacting the environment in a positive way.

Ok so those are a few reasons for why I drink Yerba Mate. Now as to the question of how to enjoy it? Well.. there are numerous products out there that actually have yerba mate in them. From carbonated beverages to actual brewed tea in some stores. But for me? The traditional way is the best; with your own container of water and set up to drink it from. If you drink it with hot water (but never boiling!) it is called yerba mate (mah-thay) (that's a hard "th" as in the spanish T) , or if you drink it with ice water (lemon or mint being a nice additive) then it is called Terere (tere-e-ray). You could also instead just buy a little tea ball and soak it yourself, or get it in tea bags or instant "just add water" style, though I'd feel that was missing out on the other sweet aspects.

As for how I came to partake and participate in this fine tradition? Well that's the tale of another day. Which happens to have already come.. so you can read that story by going here
which happens to be the blog of some Yerba Mate enthusiast and coastal lover.

So if you're interested in Yerba Mate then check it out. If you've any questions then feel free to ask. If you already drink then may you drink well, and if you'd like to drink, may you find a sweet mate circle near by.

~ The Author of this article is biased by the fact that his introduction to mate was had with a group of great and wonderful people who still inspire and support him to this day.. results may vary :)


Sherri said...

Very cool picture Jordan... you're very creative with the camera! And wow, yerba mate, what a background! You've done your research..

Jordan said...

lol thanks Sherri ;) I just pick up things here and there ;)

LOL... i suppose I should go back to studying now though.. ew yucky ;) I could really go for some Devil's Club tea right now though.. yummy spicy good. :)