Yerba Mate & Argentinian Tea Traditions

It's been a fantastic trip in Barcelona so far.  Aside from all the touristy bits to enjoy, we were excited to discover that there is a growing tea presence here and naturally, we jumped in to discover it! 

Festa Major de Gracía is a five day Spanish festival that runs in the area of, yup, you guessed it, Gracía.  The vibrant colors, the music, food, drink, it's a real community event that brings everyone together - even more so.  

As we wandered down the narrow streets looking in shop windows, it was fortuitous that we came across a little tea store - Delicias de Prada.  Initially just going in for a nose, we ended up meeting and chatting with Paolo, an Argentinian who manages the store with his father.

He was so animated and passionate about tea and aside from covering the more familiar types, we got talking about yerba mate.  This is a tea I'm not super familiar with and haven't drunk a significant amount of.

Yerba mate doesn't originate from the tea plant, camellia sinensis, it's actually a herb and looks very similar to peppermint leaves. Many, years ago it was used predominantly in South American countries as a substitution when tea wasn't available.  However, it remains incredibly popular and alongside having numerous health benefits, is very high up on the beverage consumption ladder! 

Preparing it is quite the art and the flavor is deliciously unique, and in our case it was iced.

Served in a hollow goured which can be made out of a multitude of different materials (and needs preparation in its own right), a metal straw known as a bombilla is specifically used as it's constructed to filter out any leaves.

The mate is prepared as follows: 

  1. Fill a cured mate cup just over half full with yerba mate. Tilt the gourd until the tea covers the side and almost reaches the top.
  2. Before putting the straw in, pour hot water onto the bottom half of the drink. A temperature of 140–158ºF (60–70ºC) is best.
  3. Relax while the yerba mate leaves absorb the water. This awakens the tea.
  4. Put the filtered end of the mate straw into the tea, at an angle.
  5. Pour hot, not boiling, water into the yerba mate tea and drink.

The Finished Product!


 Tasting Time

Paolo, explained more about the versatility of adding flavors and he said his favorite was lemon juice, which, upon tasting, was far more refreshing than the yerba mate alone, especially in the summer months.

It was at this point that I knew we couldn't leave without a straw and a gourd for experimentation at home so they are currently packed in our suitcase ready for the journey home.

It was a privilege to be invited to share what is a social tradition in the Argentinian culture.

To find out more, click the link to be taken to this article to discover more about this cultural tradition that we experienced.

(Brewing instructions courtesy of Culture Trip.)

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