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by Mark Taylor

When I want to drink something hot and a bit acrid, my choice of beverage is tea. To be specific, what I want is an infusion made from the dried, oxydized leaves of Camelia sinensisvar. assamica. It just has the right balance of tastes and flavors for me. Since I got involved with This House of Books, though, I have been visiting with our gifted tea blender, Gustavo Belotta. “What about maté?,” he asked.

I had some experience with maté when I was a kid. The mother of a friend had traveled to South America and brought back a decorated gourd and a silver straw with a basket-like filter on one end (a bombillia). It was displayed in the home almost as an anthropological artifact. We were curious and decided to try it. I cannot remember where we found the yerba but we brewed it and took turns sipping it through the straw. We did not bother to repeat the experience. It tasted like something you could brew up from dusty leaves you might find in your yard in the fall.

How different was Gus’s experience. He had actually lived for awhile in Argentina and had drunk maté there when he was a kid. He had consumed correctly brewed maté in the context of original maté culture and ritual. Since then, Gus has studied maté and is now very knowledgable.

I have tried maté made for me by Gus and I now like it well enough that I will be ordering it regularly. Further, I am excited to learn more about the ceremony surrounding consumption of maté. I look forward to learning more from Gus about this beverage and the context in which maté developed.

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