What if you could drink in potency, vitality, clarity and well-being in one fell slurp? Some purveyors of mate
( pronounced MAH-tay) the South American tea made with the leaf and stems of of a type of holly, Ilex paraguariensis claim that their product offers you all that as well as antioxidants, vitamins, cancer fighting phenolics, antibacterial, antifungal and weight reducing agents. They quote data from scientific journals, biochemists, the University of Illinois, and the prestigious Pasteur Institute to support their claims. Nonbelievers not only dismiss the brew’s magic properties; they list studies that mention possible links between mate drinking and bladder, esophagus and lung cancer.
All this scientific and pseudo-scientific brouhaha leaves me cold. My interest in mate has nothing to do with the validity of this or that hypothesis. A long time ago, during my salad days in northeast Brazil, I discovered a Lebanese bistro that served mate batido, a sweet iced beverage made with toasted mate tea with sfiha, a Syrian-Lebanese pastry as a an yet to be labeled fusion cuisine snack. Today, as a confirmed coffee drinker who has issues with caffeine, I am looking for a gentler alternative. Mate also contains caffeine, but some of its distributors claim that it is healthier than coffee. Who knows? Slogging through the welter of claims and counterclaims complicated the process of how to cheat on Joe until much travelled friend Borys brought home a bag of Argentinian mate tea and a guampa, the gourd traditionally used as a container for the miraculous beverage. In matters culinary I am fearless. If it tastes good and it does not kill me, I will go for it. All I need before I toss my espresso maker, is a source of fresh sfiha.