Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mate as a Study Mate

You might be wondering why this year there are so few posts or perhaps you've forgotten all about our lovely Quinn Street blog. I'm afraid Sophia and I will be leaving our beloved little Halifax and whisking away to different places and to live different lives. This doesn't mean that we don't have to stop sharing our cooking adventures but it does mean that we will no longer be able to call ourselves the Quinn Street Attic.

I thought I'd show you my recent days.

There's nothing that goes better with reading Don Quijote than mate, which provides alertness and focus, and is traditional to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. It is a tea like drink similar to a bitter green tea. There are many health benefits to mate and it can come in many forms. Many claim that it promotes weight loss and a healthy metabolism. There are new brands that contain flavors such as grapefruit, orange, coffee, lemon and citrus. I've even seen new fangled mate variations that have chocolate, vanilla and sweeteners. This type of mate is more common in the U.S. and Canada and is very different from mate brands that you find in South America. I think of them as the western versions of this traditional mate. A traditional mate drinker will tend to put in their own additives to their mate during the preparation. Sugar is the most common additive. Other people will add a little bit of ground coffee. Some prefer it bitter. There are a variety of brands that vary in strong to mild taste. Cruz de Malta, La Nobleza Gaucha y Taragui are a few that I found very strong myself.

If you're unaccustomed to mate, a strong brand can make your stomach feel out of sorts, as if you've drank a very strong cup of tea. Guayaki has a few flavors that are non-traditional like mocha java and vanilla nut. This is a brand that I've seen often in stores in the U.S. and Canada. I personally prefer CBSE.

I love this brand because it's relatively mild and its original, 'palo compuesta' has 'hierbas serranas' or mountain herbs such as peppermint(peperina), pennyroyal mint (poleo), cedrĂ³n or lemon verbena (aloysia citrodora), boldo (peumus boldus) and regular mint(menta)?

Depending on place, you can find that people use different dried or fresh herbs in their mate during the preparation. In Tucuman, I came across burro (Aloysia polystachya) and poleo (mentha pulegium). We actually had a poleo plant, also known as penny royal mint, in our backyard. There was nothing better than picking a few leaves off it for a round of mate. I loved it so much that I'm going to try to find the plant in the U.S. and plant it in my garden in my new home in Massachusetts.

The mate aparatus consists of a gourd (porongo) or a metal mate which holds the tea, a bombilla (wooden or metal straw and filter), thermos with hot water and yerba mate of choice.

It is pertinent that the water doesn't come to a full boil or the mate leaves will be burned and lack flavor and you may burn your lips on the metal straw. This hurts!!

I learned to splash a drop of cold water in the bottom of the mate before introducing the loose leaf yerba mate. You may layer sugar, ground coffee or a type of herb for flavor if so desired. Fill the mate a little less than half way. Then introduce the hot water. The perfect mate should have a frothy bubble at the surface. It is common place to drink the entire mate before refilling with water and sharing with the person next to you. Typically in a mate circle there is a person that is the designated mate server who refills the mate, changes the yerba accordingly and assures that the mate is passed along the circle. The yerba needs to be dumped out and refilled entirely once the leaves start to float in the water at the surface.

The first mate that I brought home and bought for myself was a gourd. You must properly cure a mate before use especially when using a gourd mate. Mine rotted after a short time. My friend sent me a new one made of wood with a little metal piece. It's a very standard mate.

Here's an ornate mate.

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