We’re in the city of Foz do Iguaçu, where we arrived about 1.30 p.m after a fairly uneventful flight. We had the rest of the afternoon free, but there wasn’t much to do, apart from hang around the pool, for the hotel is right on the outer fringes of the city, by the side of a busy highway. There was said to be a shopping mall 30 minutes walk away, but we have shopping malls at home and I didn’t feel like walking 30 minutes in this heat.
We were met by our guide, Marcos, who explained about the South American custom of mate. This is usually only practiced in the south of Brazil, but in many other South American countries; indeed, Argentina has proclaimed it as their national drink.
What it is basically is … tea!! But, the leaves come from the yerba mate plant, and Marcos carried with him a satchel containing chopped up leaves, a container called a cuia (in Spanish-speaking countries, it’s a mate or a guampa ) in which he makes his brew, a bomba (in Spanish, a bombilla ) or a straw, with a sort of grille on the end, to keep the leaves out, through which he drinks it. And, of course, a thermos of hot water.
The main point is … mate is a sharing thing. After you’ve drunk the first brew, to ensure it’s all right, you share subsequent brews with your companions … rather like we used to pass the cigarettes around, back in the day when everyone smoked, and you didn’t have to take out a second mortgage to buy a packet!
There is a firm trying to introduce mate to the United Kingdom. I can’t see it replacing the ‘coffee to go’ any time soon … but, you can get yerba mate tea bags. That might catch on.