What Is Yerba Mate?

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What is Yerba Mate? In certain parts of the world, you will find that instead of coffee, the local population will enjoy a beverage called Yerba Mate. This favorite is a tea, prepared and enjoyed in special ways that are part of the local cultures. Yerba Mate is the preferred beverage, and drinking coffee with milk, common in American culture, is frowned upon. Meanwhile this lower-caffeine, more relaxing beverage give people enough kick to stay alert while avoiding jitters and fostering better health (due to the more organic and less toxic nature of tea rather than coffee).

The preparation of Yerba Mate is more of ritual than the brewing of just a beverage. Traditionally, the set-up includes the preparation of certain leaves called Hierba (pronounced shhhhierba), a thermos of hot water (not boiling), and a metal straw which features a filter at the end, as well a gourd (made from a dried calabash squash) that is used to drink the potent mixture. When in the company of others, it is considered disrespectful to touch the metal straw (called a bombilla) with your fingers  (it can also burn your fingers, so just drink from the end of straw without touching).

The drink is prepared and then served, usually touching). a group of people that enjoy is communally. The more the merrier; the drink is served this way daily to the crowds. Other things to know: When being prepared, water is poured over the top of the leaves in the gourd at a 45 degree angle (so the leaves are not disturbed greatly) and allowed to steep. Care need to be taken to keep the water temperature just right; water above 175 degrees will produce a bitterness that is not pleasant.

The brew can be re-steeped several times, so you can get water and make refills that will stretch it out further, making your enjoyment last longer (with no additional expense of drink refills of other beverages). Parts of the world where Yerba Mate is traditionally prepared and served include Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay. The brew is a great cross between the experience of the caffeine buzz and the bliss of tea; a middle of the road tradition that is delicious and relaxing. If you ever make it to these locales, you need to try it for yourself; you’ll be hooked, guaranteed.

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