As I’m getting excited for Apple to approve the Eat Well Argentina app (hint, hint Apple – power o’ positive thinking), and my friend Gunther is visiting there (lucky guy), my thoughts are turning to mate, the super tasty elixihir beverage that has kept Argentina, and lots of other Latin countries, running for a long time. In fact, mate, pronounced ‘mah-tay’, is so significant to the Argentinian diet that the National Department of Culture has designated it with the seal of the Patrimonio Cultural, Alimentario y Gastronómico Argentino (Food, Gastronomy and Cultural Argentinean Heritage). Its like the UNESCO Heritage Site of food down south.
My amazingly wonderful Argentinian correspondent Romina Baritta DeFranchi has been talking it up to me, but what is it? Mate is a tea-like beverage made by brewing the dried leaves of yerba mate (an herb that grows in the northeast of the country), served in a carved calabash gourd and sipped through a metal straw called bombilla. Check it out.
Romina says it tastes somewhat earthy and bitter at first but that you get accustomed to the flavor pretty fast. Those who know me know how much I love love love my coffee so I was amped to hear mate is also an “energizing drink” with caffeine (about 78 mg of caffeine per cup if prepared like a tea and 300 mg/500 ml if drank in the traditional way) and other natural stimulant compounds. But maybe its even healthier than my morning java?
Research is still kind of limited but recent studies on yerba mate shows it contains at least 15 vitamins and minerals and its antioxidants compounds (polyphenols) are even more powerful than green tea. These antioxidants are claimed to prevent aging and some types of cancer. Mate can also help to lower cholesterol, ease your digestion and act as a diuretic. And, that’s not all. Some studies suggest that it may help you lose weight because can make you feel full and may increase fat burn. Uh, yes please!
So, unfortunately not all of us have carved calabash gourds hanging around, but lots of US-based bevvie companies are jumping on the mate bandwagon and a quick tour of your local natural market reveals lotsa mate (get it?). I’ve given a few a try and I would definitely recommend Guayaki’s traditional flavored mate if you’re looking for something chilly. Its not too sweet and the flavor is like a super-strong green tea. Definitely adds a kick.
There are lots of different styles, cuts and flavors so I would recommend buying a few to see which one you like best. And tell me about it. Ok? Ok!