I traveled throughout Argentina back in 2001-2 - it happened to be just when the Argentinian economy collapsed. The trip certainly changed my world view, as I saw a country break down economically and politically overnight. But one thing that I noticed is that despite the difficult times, Argentines still came together over coffee and maté. In fact, it became very important for people to come together and help one another during that time. I hope we will do the same in our culture when times are rough.
Pic: Traditionally mate is served in a hollowed gourd, and drunk through a silver straw which has a filter on the bottom. (Photo courtesy of Jorge Alfonso Hernandez, on Wikipedia.)
Our good friend Wikipedia has an entire entry devoted to the Benefits of Tea. It includes anti-cancer properties, increasing metabolism, boosting immune system and mental alertness, lowering chances of cognitive impairment, lowering stress, reducing bad breath, and several other benefits.
According to the BBC, drinking tea is healthier than water. Of course there is a study for everything, but I do believe it increases my mental alertness and lowers my stress level. The latter benefit could have a lot to do with just taking the time for myself to drink tea!
Importation of Tea
Matt and I try to buy tea that is fair trade and organically grown. However, tea tends to come from far away places, requiring a lot of fossil fuels to get them into our cupboard. China and India together produce 50% of the world’s tea, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN.
So, I looked up how to grow tea. Turns out that it is fairly easy to grow. The same plant produces black, green, or oolong tea - the difference is in the preparation of the leaves. Even better, tea comes from a Camellia bush that has beautiful white flowers. So guess what we put in the ground this spring!
The shrub is hardy to zone 8, but in cooler areas it can be grown indoors, in a greenhouse, or in a pot that comes inside during the cold winter days. According to the above article, you can’t harvest the leaves until the plant is three years old, so you may want to purchase a mature plant rather than starting from seed.
Pic: Camellia sinensis. (Photo is in Public Domain, originally appearing in Kohler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, by Franz Eugen Kohler, in 1887.)
Maté is a little more difficult to grow. It is an understory evergreen holly tree that grows to 20-30 feet when fully mature. Germination apparently takes several months, as it does for many trees. Also, you must grow it in zone 9 or above, though growing indoors or in a greenhouse may be an option.
Here is where I’ve found Ilex paraguariensis seeds:
There is not a whole lot of information out there about how to grow maté - it could be that most of it is in Spanish! If you know more about how to grow it, please leave a comment.
Pic: Ilex paraguariensis. (Photo is in Public Domain, originally appearing in Kohler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, by Franz Eugen Kohler, in 1887.)