Looking for a jitter-free alternative to your daily cup(s) of coffee? Try mate, a tea-like beverage made from the leaves of the South American holly plant, yerba mate. This national drink of Uruguay and Argentina is loved for the clean energy boost it provides. The ritual of gathering with family and friends to pass a mate-filled gourd around in a circle (each person drinks from the same straw, beginning with the host) is deeply embedded in the tapestry of South American culture, its popularity dating back hundreds of years. For a taste of mate in New York, minus the gourd-passing (hey, it’s flu season!), check out some of these expansive tea cafes: Alice’s Tea Cup, Park Slope’s Tea Lounge, David’s Tea, and Grounded (they have a mate latte!).
There’s a great hot mate at Physical Graffitea, a groovy East Village tea shop with an interesting variety of mate blends, including Chai Mate and Lemon Ginger Herb Mate. We opted for Fresh Green Mate, a classic blend with a pure, grassy aroma. A dash of agave nectar rounded out the earthy, slightly bitter flavor of this steaming drink, which tasted like a more intense version of green tea, and had a soothing-yet-energizing effect. The caffeine boost is certainly different than that of coffee—We felt a sense of clarity and focus that lingered for several hours (perfect for a long winter’s day!).
For the city’s most unique taste of mate, head to cozy Lower East Side Latin joint, Yerba Buena, for an artisanal mate cocktail. The Boludo “Yerba Mate” combines mate-infused pisco (a type of South American brandy) with lemon juice and both grapefruit and lime cordials. Served shaken in a martini glass, the Boludo is a refreshing balance of tart, bitter, and sweet. The earthy mate flavor is indeed prevalent, lending the drink a somewhat smoky flavor that is perfectly complemented by those citrus cordials. Suddenly those Uruguayan beaches don’t seem so far away…
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