Real tea drinkers look to India for Assam and Darjeeling leaves, Sri Lanka for the “champagne” of Ceylon teas, and China for some of the world’s best black, green, white, and oolong brews.
What about Brazil? Though several South American countries grow and produce black tea, most of the leaves, including those grown in Brazil, are primarily used for tea bag blends. Our neighbors to the south, however, have mate which is considered by many to be as strong as coffee, as healthy as tea, and as tasty as chocolate. Personally, I don’t think anything is quite as tasty as chocolate, and the health benefits, too, are iffy.
5 Quick Facts…
— Yerba mate comes from a shrub in the holly family that is native to South America. The leaves are dried, chopped, and ground for brewing.
— The drink is usually sipped from a hollow gourd through a bombilla (a metal straw — traditionally silver).
— The Guarani people (one of the largest indigenous groups in South America) are believed to be the first to cultivate the plant.
— Some claim that it relieves stress, eases depression, stops headaches, and treats various other ailments.
— The leaves contain vitamins and minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. Despite the notion, however, that mate is called an “herbal” tea, it does contain caffeine. It also contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are known to be carcinogenic. (Tobacco smoke and grilled meat also contain PAHs.)