South American Solution to Coffee: Yerba Maté
As evidenced by my coworkers' last posts, we're a caffeinated bunch here at Food & Wine. I've been trying to lay off the coffee lately, and I recently learned to love the more subtle energy-enhancing South American tea yerba maté. I wish I could say that I first tried yerba maté in the traditional gourd cup that a well-tanned gaucho passed to me around a campfire while hiking the Andes. Instead, my first taste was the fizzy, sweetened Sol Maté, a yerba maté–based energy drink introduced last year. The bottled stuff is tasty enough, but it hardly captures the smoky, herby nuance of the real thing. While in Buenos Aires last July, I had a steaming cup of yerba maté every evening to keep me awake during post-midnight dinners. The grocery stores in Argentina might have had limited green-vegetable selections, but full aisles were nearly completely devoted to the tea. I brought a box of Cruz de Malta tea bags, a local everyday brand, home with me for when I need a quick fix. Last week, at Sanctuary Tea in New York City’s Tribeca, I ended my meal of trout cleverly cooked in smoked tea oil and puffy gnocchi caramelized in jasmine-infused brown butter with an expertly brewed yerba maté. While it wasn’t served in a gourd, it was the most pure, distinctively flavored version of the tea I’ve tried yet.