Search & Distill: The Green Tea Killa

Yerba mate makes its move.

Just a few years ago, yerba mate clung to the fringe, just another hippie and health-nut fetish, drunk out of a gourd with a silver straw. But it's come a long way since then—all the way to the Tully's at the mini-mall. I went all yerba, cutting out coffee and tea, a few weeks ago to see what effects it would have, and I must say I feel like half-a-million bucks. No eye-twitching from the computer, no jitters, no acidic stomach. If only I didn't love my pillowy breve cappuccinos so much. Unlike a cappuccino, yerba mate is not a beverage you fall in love with, but one you grow to enjoy and adore, like a comfortable shoe, a shoe that's very, very good for you.I probably enjoy it most as a latte—and especially with soy milk. With other kinds of tea, you usually feel the tannin just in the back of the mouth, but with mate, it can feel and taste like someone just scraped your tongue with green-tea-soaked bark. Not entirely pleasant, not entirely unpleasant. Soy milk counters this texture and tones down mate's twiggy overtones by adding a little nutty character, a cross-cultural match made in antioxidant heaven.I quickly realized that, as with green tea, once you spring for the high-grade, sweet leaf you can't go back. Remedy Teas (345 15th Ave. E.) is the best place to experiment, as you're sure to get a drink that's just so. One smell of their pure yerba mate will rope you in. Remedy also has different mate-based blends ($3–$5 per ounce), if you want to ease yourself into the beverage: Cocoa mate has a roasted note, with cocoa bits and flower petals, and the citra mate with lemongrass and orange peel acts as sunshine in a cup for a blustery day. I find these blends far more affordable and enjoyable compared to white tea and a mellow alternative to greens. Chilled, with a bit of citrus or ginger, yerba makes a fantastic ice tea.Why did I do this and what happened to me? Mate is vitamin, mineral, and anti-oxidant rich. On the caffeine Richter scale, mate is somewhere between black tea and coffee, but mate typically reacts gentler with the stomach. It provides the boost of caffeinated beverages without the backlash—no coffee shakes, heart racing, or digestive distress. "People get into yerba mate not because of how it tastes, necessarily, but how it makes them feel," says Remedy owner Anthony Arnold. "In South America, there's a long history of yerba and the gauchos; their nickname for it is 'liquid vegetable.'" In the yerba mate vs. green tea smackdown, mate may prove more nutritious. Anthony explains, "We've got the staff of the night shift at Group Health on it, and many local boxers, because it aids in alertness and stamina."I hope mate sticks around, if only to spite the ravenous food media, guzzling trends like a cracked-out tweener. Thank God it's street legal, because my name is Maggie and I'm a mate latte-holic.mdutton@seattleweekly.com

 
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