By Miranda Murray
One taste of the powerful yerba mate tea and you’ll soon be hearing the chortle of the bombilla as you attempt to drink it to the last drop!
The yerba mate is a small tree that is native to South America, and its leaves are gathered and traditionally infused with boiling water in a hollowed-out, rich deep brown gourd that is small enough to fit in your palm, called a calabash gourd. Then the drinker inserts a bombilla, or straw, which is traditionally made of bamboo or silver, into the gourd and sips it until the last drop, which is described with the word chortle.
The drink is deeply rooted in South American culture, and there are as many yerba mate bars in Argentina as there are coffee shops the U.S.
Yerba mate is seen as a social drink that calls for its own form of ceremony. The cebador is the one who prepares a gourd of mate for his friends, testing to make sure that it sips smoothly before passing it to the next aficionado. Then it is passed to each person in the circle, who drinks all the tea out of the gourd before passing it back to the cebador to refill and give to the next person to finish. Some say the way the cebador prepares the mate for each person indicates how he or she feels about that particular person.
The drink originated with the native inhabitants, the Guarani , who populated regions of Paraguay, Uruguay and parts of Argentina and Brazil. The Guarani called yerba mate the “drink of the gods” and have several legends surrounding its origins. One legend says that mate was given to the Guarani people after a young woman stayed with her old, tired father after the rest of the tribe had migrated to better farmland. The girl wanted to follow the tribe, but her father could not make the journey. The pair was visited by a shaman who gave the girl the mate plant to give to her father to strengthen him.
The Argentinean gauchos, or cowboys, also often relied on the plant’s invigorating abilities to get them through their day and refer to it as their “liquid vegetable.”
Although Germany may be more famous for a different kind of beverage, the residents of a small eastern region’s entire day is structured around tea. East Frisians drink 300 liters of tea per person each year. To compare, the average U.K. citizen drinks about 230 liters of tea per year.
East Frisians take Teetied, or afternoon tea, along with a breakfast and mid-evening tea. A special mix of black teas is commonly served in small cups over Kluntje, which are tiny, crystallized pieces of sugar. The sound of the sugar crackling as the hot tea splashes over it is known as Wohlklang. East Frisians then use a Rohmlepel , a special spoon designated for tea time only, to put cream into their tea. There is a saying, “Dreimal is Ostfriesen recht,” which means it is polite to drink at least three cups of tea per sitting, and when done, to leave the spoon in the cup. Leaving your spoon in the cup is the polite way of saying that you’ve had enough tea, after, of course, polishing off at least three cups.
Local legend says that tea drinking became a part of this region’s culture after pastors promoted the health benefits of tea as superior to schnapps or beer, which had been causing problems in the community. During World War II, East Friesland was the only region of Germany that received extra tea rations.
Caysiz sohbet, aysiz gok yuzu gibidir is a traditional Turkish saying in the central Sivas province, which means conversations without tea are like a night sky without the moon. One can’t go far in Turkey without running into a teahouse or tea garden, which serve as the social hubs of the town where children can play and old friends can have loud conversations.
Turkish tea is famously served in clear, hourglass-shaped cups without handles, which allow drinkers to see the colors of the tea being served. Cream is generally never taken with the tea, but two cubes of sugar often accompany the tea glass.
Turkish tea, which is normally black, is traditionally prepared using a çaydanlık, or a stacked teakettle, and is offered in many stores as a sign of hospitality. There is even a specific word for the waiter who brings the tea to the merchants, a çayci.
The popularity of tea is said to originate from Mehmet Izzet, the governor of Adana, a southern city in Turkey. He published a brochure touting the health benefits of tea in the late 1800s, and it prompted a slew of teahouses to open in Turkish cities, eventually becoming part of the culture.