El Almacen Escapade

So I’ve always wondered, what is the proper way to drink maté tea?  What is so great about this South American tea? You drink it from this little gourd and with a straw…who drinks tea from a straw??? Well now I do.

El Almacen is a cozy, welcoming cafe on Queen West in Toronto.  Definitely passed by it several times while I have been shopping in that area and missed the part of the sign that read “Yerba Maté Cafe”.  When I heard about it from a coworker I just had to make a special tea-venture downtown Toronto and discover what this yerba maté cafe was all about.

Three of us ventured down to El Almacen on a surprisingly warm winters day and it was as if the cafe was waiting for us with open arms.  The woman working at the time recommended we share the serving of maté if we wanted to drink it the traditional way from the gourd so we ordered one maté serving and three delicious little treats on the side called Alfajores. These coconut caramel little treats were delectable!  I would go back to El Almacen just for those pastries.

mateAs she brought our order over I asked the server if she could show us how to properly enjoy the tea.  She was happy to show us the maté ways and explained we would need about 8 teaspoons of tea in the small gourd and suggested adding a few teaspoons of cane sugar to sweeten the taste of the maté.  Traditionally, yerba maté can be sipped through a bombilla – a stainless steel straw capable of filtering the tea without consuming the leaves.  After she filled the gourd with maté, cane sugar and about 74ºC water (as to not burn the leaves), she placed the bombilla in the center of the gourd and reminded us not to move it about or stir the straw as it will become clogged with the tea leaves.

matedrinkerWhat an experience!  We passed the gourd around between the three of us, taking turns drinking through the bombilla and refilling the gourd with water before passing it along.  I loved the bonding experience involved with drinking yerba maté and it seemed to fit right in with the the welcoming relaxed atmosphere of the cafe.  The artwork was beautiful along the walls and on the tables, the staff was very friendly and I felt as if I had been there before even though I seemed to only pass by this enchanting cafe.

Not only did the server show us how to drink the yerba maté, but she explained to us that it is very energizing in a different way that coffee is.  I like that she mentioned we will be more mentally alert after drinking the tea and not crazy infused with a jolt of caffeine.  We were very energized afterwards, ready to take on the streets of Toronto!  And I would definitely come back here with friends and enjoy the traditional ways of the maté world.  The welcoming atmosphere brought people together and left you with a calming energy to last the rest of the day.

tabletealadyThanks El Almacen for the great tea experience!

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