Pass the Gourd
I love all tea. Even the tea that I don’t care for in taste holds a special place in my heart. As anyone can tell you, when you love something so much, even though you try not to, you will inevitably have a favorite. Yerba Mate fills that role in my life.
Why does Mate make me giddy? Well I would like to say it is because it was there for me in the wee hours of the morning when I was feeding my babies or that it is because it held me up after sleepless nights. But the truth is, it is more than that. Sure I drank enough of it when my daughter was born and my son was a mere 14 months old. I relied on it to help get me through the first several years of motherhood, but the back story is what sealed the deal on this tea.
This tea was originally harvested from wild plants. The Jesuit missionaries, who were tied to the Spanish invasion, settled in Columbia and learned how to cultivate the mate plant. They produced plantations of Mate. Unfortunately, unlike caco and coffee, this caffeinated plant never took off outside of South America. Partly to the fact that the Spanish eventually kicked the Jesuits off of the land.
Yerba Mate boasts the ability to curb appetite as well as increase energy, amongst other properties. The caffeine in Mate is a different form than you find in other caffeinated drinks. The form of caffeine is called mateine. Mateine does not seem to give people the shakes or cause one to hit a wall. Instead it is consistant with giving people energy, as caffeine does, without the gigantic crash.
It is said that the medicine men (or women) of the time would use the Mate to chew on as they travelled from one village to the next. The properties of energy and curbed appetite was good for them since they weren’t sure when they would get their next meal.
My favorite thing about Mate, though, is the community. It is typically consumed in a hollowed out gourd through a bombilla (silver straw with a filter on the end). Groups of people, independent of race, social status, beliefs, etc. gather around and “pass the gourd”. It is a very old tradition, usually slated for illegal substances, but here it is innocent and pure. The idea that you are sharing a piece of history with others, putting aside differences just for those moments, is extremely humbling and at the core humanistic. The hippie in me likes the idealistic reality that we can all share something and get along, even if for just a moment.
The Tea Lady