[I'm collaborating on a three-part series with the team at Argentinian Yerba Mate. In Part I, we explored how to make yerba mate, Part II showcased origins of the brew, and today we'll look at ways to work with yerba mate as an ingredient. Hope you enjoy!]
I've been in San Francisco for the past month and found yerba mate in many places. Argentina is the world's largest producer of yerba mate, and it is neat to see how one country's national drink is adapted in different countries. Our default approach to yerba mate in the US is to use it as we do tea – brew and drink. But once you view yerba mate as an ingredient or component of something larger than a standalone brew…the possibilities are endless.
You know how nitro coffee got really popular the past few years? You'll start seeing nitro tea everywhere in the next few years. Boba Guys offers a rotation of nitro teas and they recently had nitro yerba mate at the Potrero location. The pour is wonderful, bright and frothy with a bit of sweetness. I like how it's served it in a beer glass, feels pretty decadent in the middle of the day ^-^
Not far in the Mission neighborhood is Stable Cafe. Here yerba mate appears twice on the short drinks menu. You can order it as a classic hot or iced brew…or opt for a yerba mate latte. It's served with whole milk, almond milk, oat milk. I like it best with oat milk, and a seat at the beautiful outdoor garden. The color is a shade lighter than a classic latte and drinks smoothly with the oat milk rounding out the bitter eges. You get the satisfaction of drinking a coffee-esque beverage but with a focused, energized calm (as opposed to the jittery coffee buzz). The caffeine content between Argentinian yerba mate and coffee is similar, but caffeine in yerba mate is released in the body gradually so you get an sustained type of energy...
From there, it's a straight shot down Folsom Street till you hit 24th Street. Right on the corner is the original location of Philz Coffee. My go-to order is yerba mate with lots of fresh mint and squeeze of honey. They'll ask you, how sweet? The answer to that is just a little. And that has always been the perfect amount of honey. This is a nice one to recreate at home... ever since I "discovered" this drink combination I've been making it often as an afternoon pick-me-up.
Also in the Mission (at the corner of Dolores Park), is Woods Cervecería, a brewery specializing in yerba mate beer! How cool is that? The beers are brewed with yerba mate giving them all a very distinct flavor. My favorite is Morpho, which includes hibiscus (that's where that vibrant red shade comes from) and bay leaves. The server says she thinks of it as the rosé of beer…a spot on description. They're also popular for the Mateveza (a classic IPA with a minty, herbal bitterness). Whichever you get…
...make sure to pair it with the ideal snack: Argentinian empanadas! They have six types, and you want the classic. It's stuffed with beef, onions, green olives, raisins, and hard-boiled eggs. A dream of a treat, and way to wind down Thursday afternoon.
Thought it might be harder to make Argentinian yerba mate beer or nitro at home, the latte and mint/honey combo are very doable. And that's just the start of many ways you can work with yerba mate as an ingredient. Other flavors that pair well with yerba mate include cinnamon, cloves, tonka beans, and fresh grated coconut. You can sub in coconut cream for dairy in lattes to give it a really rich, creamy finish. Fingers crossed we see more yerba mate appearing on menus worldwide ^-^