A Different Kind of Drink

photo by flickr user morrissey

By Jan Carstens

I find myself contemplating a rampant addiction that plagues the CCA student body -It was recently just red ribbon week after all. A drug dependence so powerful, that without a proper fix, the very foundation of our community here would crumble. Caffeine.

We all get it through different means, but chances are, all of us take a much needed caffeine boost from time to time. Whether it be derived from aromatic black tea blends, Starbucks, or maybe even –and yes they make them- conveniently consumed caffeine pills, every user and abuser has their preference.

But if you’re anything like me, and the tea proves inefficient, the coffee gives nothing but jitters and a headache, and finding a productive push can pose somewhat of a challenge. That is until a friend introduced me to my newest vice, a South American wonder-brew known traditionally as Yerba Maté. Introduced to him by his Santa Cruz residing older brother, where it is supposedly a hit amongst the sleep deprived student body, I immediately had high hopes for the concoction.

It was love at first sip. Not only was it delicious, but the psychotropic benefits it provided made it a staple at the time when I was a “standardized-test-stressin’ 11th grader”. It was the perfect replacement, devoid of all the negatives that other caffeinated drinks could provide: no jitters, no nausea, no headache, no short spike of energy followed by a crippling comedown, but instead a long, sustained, and above all, clearheaded energy and vitalization.

Curious about the effectiveness of the brew, some research at the time revealed that the leaves that comprise the blend come from a plant that shares the same name, a species of rainforest holly tree. The history of the tea’s consumption is unclear as its roots extend far into the pre-Columbian history of the Guarani people of Southern Argentina.

As my love for the beverage grew, I decided to investigate the benefits of its traditional consumption, and sipped through a straw called, in Spanish and traditionally, a “bombilla”. As soon as I got my hands on my first Maté gourd, I discovered how the tissues inside the dried gourd cured and flavored the steaming, leafy tea. The taste–although seemingly repulsive to my unconditioned friends- was exquisite.

The effects of the traditional brew were significantly more potent and I found that I would reserve its consumption for special occasions, lessening my frequency of its use. At this point, although I hardly use the drink, I still hold a special reverence for it. How its original users heralded it as a true drink of the gods, is no mystery to me.