The year of yerba mate

2022-10-11 @Blog

Lots of yerba mate consumed this year. Helps to have acquired about a quarter kilo stash from a traveler way back in Manaus, which somehow stretched over the next six months. This is beginning to resemble a diary of a substance abuser.

Not that it was a daily ceremony. The mate conditions had to align. I didn’t always have a thermos or access to hot water. Then another kind soul in Belém left me a thermos which I adamantly have lugged since. (I don’t take kindly to purchasing … stuff, and in almost no case, to the acquisition of freshly manufactured imperishables … Prefer those leftover gifts, or to exchange, then donate. Not that exceptions don’t occur. Then I feel rotten for weeks. But I overall cringe at the prospect of entering stores, even used item stores. Too much time, too much hassle.) Thus it became a mere function of hot water.

Sometimes I also stumbled upon other yerba to supplement. Who would have imagined a whole half-a-bag abandoned in a Recife hostel? By an Argentine?? The group that appears to value each milligram most of all? Especially so in Brazil, where, save for the South, authentic mate is nearly impossible to come by. Whereas the Brazilian brands, even if unsweetened, come universally butchered.

It is the year of Playadito and Mañanita, the brands I find entirely identical in both taste and dust, probably cultivated in similar regions. Then I once sampled the Uruguayan brand Sara, something altogether sublime. In Mexico, where I was originally initiated into the yerba mate tradition years back (now this parodies the Freemason’s Journal), also experimented the brand Pajarito. Solid. Heck, it’s all good, provided it be the pure, the bitter Ilex Paraguariensis, not that other sacrilege.

I thus spent the travel season with the much treasured stash, the bombilla (steel straw), and later the thermos. As far as the gourd (the main vessel), unless one found abandoned at a lodging, I resorted to a tea (if not an espresso) cup or even a small glass. Comparing the two experiences retrospectively, I don’t think the organic materials yielded any greater seep cycles.

And I really strove to stretch those cycles, considering the generally scarce supply. That meant small servings per gourd (how much can you squeeze into an espresso cup?) no more than a handful of sips per iteration, and an overall conscientious means of consumption: gradual, mindful.

Then I became nearly pedantic with the ceremony: the 45 degree angle formed by the yerba, the dry area, the infused area, the exceptionally slow priming, the sub-boiling water temperature so as not to burn the concoction; drink almost immediately upon the initial cycles, steep longer with time. Yeah, this is right up my alley.

I’m of the sort to share the mate in a group, or usually with one person. But god forbid an uninitiated soul takes liberty with that water, or dislocates the straw, or overfills …

I guess the mate compensates for much coffee abuse. Exchange one abuse for another, a noble commerce. Now just lots of coffee, an improvement over crazy amounts. Don’t know if I’m headed in the right direction though. For mate, the way I consume it, likely dominates the caffeine.

Though it’s a subtler form of caffeine. Doesn’t pound at once: impacts gradually, spatially, then as gracefully, emaciates. Between the two, coffee is the ruffian, mate is the gallant.

Questions, comments? Connect.