Thursday, April 14, 2005


Morning Yerba

Morning Yerba
Copyright 2005, Karl Heiss

Her fingertips barely brush my palm as I pass her the mate. My fingertips barely brush her palm as I release it into her hand. We sit at the table. I look out the window toward the mountains where a mist blankets the peaks. She idly moves the papers on the table. She brings the bombilla up to her lips and sips slowly; not aware that I am watching her.

Isn’t this yerba mate tea ritual a bit of the mortar that holds our relationship together?

I feel alive, energetic, and yet at the same time at peace… with this ritual as a framework within which to view my life. I am happy.

My Argentinean wife there, reading the paper, was my introduction to yerba mate tea. It was, she was, perfect for me: strong and bitter, like strong coffee, yet fresh and clean--invigorating--and taken in a vessel sensuously crafted of tradition and refinement. It was easy to give up all else… to give up the regular habit of coffee; she was my surrogate in finding a good coffee substitute. The passion for herbs, tonics, and their individual aspects--my research into their many uses, my appreciation for their separate subtle often aromatic flavors--gave me an even greater appreciation for yerba mate’s unique character. With other teas the need to go back and have a good cup of strong coffee was always there… and now the reverse is true. If ever there is temptation to taste of coffee’s appealing natures… I am back again, filling up a hand crafted gourd with yerba, heating water, passing, touching….

If this yerba mate ever becomes ‘just a tea’ for us I know we will be out of the yerba mate business. Speaking once to an online seller of yerba mate tea, a competitor in our area, I heard him express his belief that yerba mate tea would only catch on with [North] Americans if they could use it in the manner they were [accustomed] to [in tea bags or in an espresso machine]--and only if it were fast and easy for them. In fact this particular tea seller is in the business of promoting yerba mate in these forms: weak tea bags and speedy espresso-packs--all selling for a high mark-up under his “brand” label. I had to beg to differ with him: the interest we’ve had from people boosts my belief. People want, even need, to have more ritual and to take more time… and to appreciate the moment.

People have a great interest in the traditional methods of making this tea: namely the use of a mate (gourd) and bombilla (filter straw). Life is too fast-paced already and the ritual and communal nature of the traditional yerba mate tea drinking ceremony is in demand. They might buy quickly and easily from our site… but with the intention of entering, at a later moment, the time-honored yerba mate ritual tradition.

These moments shared with yerba mate, by way of yerba mate and a friend, are not like most other experiences we are accustomed to here in this country (the U.S.). By necessity the people sharing the tea must be physically close to one another; reaching out and making contact in a manner coffee cannot afford. Even the act of being “host” takes on a new meaning. We choose the appropriate gourd, fill to the amount we desire, heat the water--but not to boiling. I like to watch the water heat in a glass pot over the stove. When the bubbles form it is warm, when a few start to release it is hot, and when more barely start to release and the pot starts to sing a bit it is hot enough for my wife. I know from experience she thinks it’s not hot enough if the pot doesn’t sing. I don’t think I’ve told her this… it’s just that when I see her sitting there, absorbed in her thoughts, drinking the mate, and she doesn’t look up to say “this mate’s not hot enough” then I know she is satisfied. I pour only enough water to wet half the tea in the gourd; not too strong, not too weak. The smoothness of the moment is synchronous with the smoothness of the mate tea. My wife passes the gourd back to me, touching my hand slightly. She looks up and smiles back at me and then resumes reading the article in the paper she has found. I refill the gourd, steam rising, and sip it myself.

The mist from the peaks has washed down the canyons in a downdraft and is slowly dispersing in the valley below. Another day has begun.

Sunday, April 10, 2005


Yerba Mate Tea Gourd voting

Please visit our site to select your vote for your favorite yerba mate tea

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