This has been an unusually cold winter for Southern California, so I have been drinking more hot tea for my own comfort. In the mornings, I drink only Indian black teas, such as Darjeeling, Ceylon, and Assam—but at night, I have switched over to yerba mate (in Argentinian Spanish, pronounced SHARE-pah mah-TAY).
This is a direct result of my two trips to Argentina, where drinking yerba mate is an obsession. In fact, throughout both Argentina and Uruguay, people travel with the “fixings” for a serving of the tea, which they share with friends and fellow travelers. These fixings consist of the dry tea itself, a thermos filled with hot water, a mate gourd (mine, shown above, was purchased in Colonia Sacramento, Uruguay), and a bombilla, or metal straw, for sucking in the tea without getting a mouthful of the leaves. Shown below is a vending machine at the Buenos Aires Zoo for refilling thermoses:
Many people do not like the taste of yerba mate. Martine, for example, has tasted it but doesn’t care for it. I liked it from the start. Every day while in South America, I had a version of it called mate cocido at breakfast time: This is nothing more than yerba mate in tea bags.
At night, I switch between mate cocido and the loose yerba mate served in my Uruguayan gourd.
There are many health claims made for yerba mate, but I drink it because I like the flavor and because it makes me feel good, especially on a cold night.
In case you’re wondering about the specks on my mate gourd in the photo above, they are nothing more than small bits of yerba mate that bubble over when I fill the mate gourd with hot (but not boiling) water. They dry almost instantly and are most visible on the metal rim of the gourd.