Yerba Mate Herbal Tea
While it is true that the majority of tea comes from and is associated with China, India and other countries in
Asia, there are some less well known areas of the world that also have the climate, soil and expertise to produce a
fine tea. In recent years, South Africa has been on the radar with the rising popularity of Rooibos. Delightful as
it is, Rooibos is not a traditional tea since it is not made from the Camilla Senensis plant. There is another
plant that makes for a great tea, but this one is cultivated in South America and goes under the rather odd
sounding name of Yerba Mate.
Produced from the Ilex Paraguariensis tree, which is part of the holly family, it makes a fine herbal tea. Grown
in Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil it is a South American wonder. Each country has its own distinctive
style of Yerba Mate tea. In Brazil, the leaves are toasted, yielding a stronger taste. In Argentina, the cocido is
a fine breakfast tea.
Like other herbal teas, it has many of the great health benefits of a traditional leaf. It provides a relaxing
drink while aiding digestion. And it still has many of the antioxidants that are helpful in warding of cancers.
Even in bag or loose leaf form it still makes for a great brew. It can be a very fine, almost powdery substance,
though. The leaves are dried, then crumbled into a very fine brown-leaf tea mixture. So, if you don't care for bits
of herb in the liquid, filter well. The tea can even be prepared in a French press.
It's easy to obtain in bag form, but for a more traditional South American brew there's an alternative
preparation method. Instead of a teapot, a gourd and a bombilla is used. The gourd (called a mate) is used in place
of a cup, and the bombilla is a metal straw that gives the smooth herbal a nice little tang.
Fill the gourd 3/4 full of herb, then pour cold water over them until they're wetted but not drowned. Let them
soak for a few minutes. While you wait, heat a cup of water to about 82°C/180°F, then add enough water to fill the
gourd. Steep for a few minutes. Then insert the bombilla filter end down into the liquid and sip. Arriba!
In the traditional social setting, one person typically takes the role of preparer and server and has the first
sip. Then the gourd and straw is passed from one person to the next. And you thought only the Japanese had tea
Pick up a gourd and bombilla and have some tea South American style.