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February 03, 2008

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HI there! I just find you by accident but I'm glad that I did!
My name is Sabrina and I'm from Argentina but living in US for almost 6 years! It's so nice to find people that like my culture, you described everything so well!
Love it! It seems to me that you really got the Argentina culture under control!
I have to say that what miss the most about food from Argentina is my bread!! and all my pastries! like facturas, medias lunas, alfajores, bizcochitos!!!!
Very nice to find you have a great day!
un abrazo
Sabrina

I found your blog from the Yerba Mate video on YouTube; it's nice. Learning a new culture as an adult is completely different from learning it as a child of that culture, and wonderfully rewarding in its own way. (Over the past decade, I've been spending a quarter or a third of each year in SW France - no, not Provence; that's the South East!) We see things that are invisible to the people who live there, until they see them anew through our eyes. I love traveling in the US with our French friends for just that reason; I see unconsciously-known things from a completely different perspective when I'm with them.

At any rate, just to share back a bit of foodie information you may be interested in, let me tell you a bit about water temperature for making tea. (Pretty exciting, eh?) This business of "a full rolling boil" is a British thing, and they are relatively late to come to tea. (The legend is that they hired some North Indians to steal seeds from the Chinese.) The boiling water routine is a function of the English/Indian style of mixing milk with already boiled tea leaves, and (perhaps) a horror of Indian germs.

The Chinese tea tradition is much, much longer, and there is no use of boiling water. In fact, as far as Chinese tea traditions go, the Brits have gotten it horribly wrong. Water temperatures vary, from a high or 180F for fully fermented (or oxidized, which is the more modern and more correct term) black tea, like Pu Erh, down to 140F or so for fresh crop green teas. In fact, for a first-quality current harvest prizewinning green Long Jing (or Ching; crude transliterations of the tea which is translated as "Dragon Well"), some fanatical fussbudgets will drop the temperature down even as far as 120F, which is about as hot as a good water heater delivers water. Spring water, or collected rain water from the unpolluted mountains, of course, although a Brita filter is as much as most of us can manage, even if we're a little nuts on tea.

Chinese steeping times are much more like those used with yerba mate, also, especially with green tea. Basically, pour it on, and pour it out, without letting the tea leaves sitting in water after the steeping has been done. Common times are a minute for the first steeping, and add another 15 or 20 seconds for each subsequent steeping, each time pouring the tea off into a serving pot (yixing, one would hope, for both pots) before then pouring it into the drinking cups.

(The style I'm describing is translated as "Old Man Tea," which hardly anyone has time for, now days. The modern Chinese style is just as likely to be drowning a tea bag as it is for Westerners.) At any rate, when you contrast making yerba mate with tea, it's really a contrast between mate and the kind of weird tea we've learned to make from the English; the traditional styles from China are actually pretty close, except for the service implements.

At any rate, enjoy whatever it is you're drinking, and thanks again for the video. (I've been drinking mate for over 30 years - my wife learned about it when she spent a year teaching school in Brazil.)

Paul Weiss (a.k.a. Pablo Blanco)

I had to drink mate when I lived in Chile. I was in a ruka, a Mapuche grass house, basically, with a fire going on the dirt floor and nowhere for the smoke to exit (apparently, chimneys are not part of Mapuche technology). There were about a dozen of us -- Mapuche women and me, the gringa -- sitting around the fire. They made mate and started passing it around, adding more hot water and sugar to the container after each woman drank.

They handed it to me and I thought, this is so gross! I do not want to drink from the same bombilla that everyone else has used! Not only that, but I don't like tea.

But it was one of those awful "They are doing to define all Americans by what I do in the next ten seconds" moments, so I was stuck.

It was nasty.

I tried to avoid mate situations after that.

I did notice, when I traveled to Paraguay, that everyone always had mate (way more than in Chile), including carrying a little thermos with them.

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