Quotes: MENA   Enter Symbol: NewsLetter: Search: advanced

South American 'mate' tea a long-time Lebanese hit  Join our daily free Newsletter

MENAFN - AFP - 11/03/2014
No. of Ratings : 0
Add to Mixx!

(MENAFN - AFP) Steam rises from a gourd filled with yerba mate as Wissam al-Halabi takes a sip, seated on a Lebanese mountain slope where the South American drink has become a local tradition.For more than a century, the mountain folk have been enjoying the slightly bitter hot drink, pronounced "yer-bah mah-tay," far from its origins half-way around the world.It is particularly popular among adherents of the secretive Druze faith, who are scattered throughout the eastern Mediterranean's Levant region, mostly in Lebanon and Syria."It's from Argentina originally and we're told it came here hundreds of years ago, brought by Lebanese migrants who came back from there," says Samah Halawi, a Druze sheikh.Latin America became a prime destination for economic migrants from the Levant, particularly in the late 19th century, and a large community of their descendants still exists in Argentina and elsewhere in the region.Halawi sports the white knit hat, thick moustache and loose pleated sherwal trousers that are traditional attire for the religious class of the Druze community.And he considers the signature mate gourd and silver bombilla (bahm-bee-zha) straw to be just as traditional as his clothing."Mate is something that's very traditional here, something that we grew up with and saw our family drinking," he says."It's a social drink; we drink it together. Me and the guys get together often and drink as a group."- Crosses Syria battle lines -

Yerba mate, made from the leaves of a rainforest holly tree, has been cultivated in South America for centuries. It is particularly popular in southern Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina, which dominates exports of the tea to Lebanon and neighbouring Syria.In 2012, Argentina exported nearly 1,500 tons of mate to Lebanon, making it the country's third-biggest market, according to the International Trade Centre, a UN and World Trade Centre agency.Syria, with a population more than five times that of Lebanon, is Argentina's biggest mate market, importing more than 24,000 tons in 2012.The drink's popularity there has not been affected by the conflict and even crosses battle lines, with both regime troops and rebel fighters spotted imbibing.For Halabi, who works at a hotel in the bucolic mountain setting of the central Lebanese town of Barouk, a midday break for mate is as necessary as a coffee or tea break anywhere else."Usually, if I know my friends are in the area, I'll call them up and say I've put the kettle on and I'm getting ready to make some mate. Come over and let's drink together."On a brisk afternoon, he sat with three friends around a small fire encircled by several bricks supporting a kettle.They passed around biscuits and sweetened bread as they discussed their favourite brands and the health benefits of the drink.Halabi and several other locals prefer the Argentinian brand Amanda, because it has a mild taste and can be drunk with or without sugar.He recommends a bitter preparation for a post-meal digestive aid, and insists that the drink also helps "clean the kidneys".Ghada al-Halawi, another Barouk local, likes to drink mate first thing in the morning, instead of coffee or tea."We don't feel like we've woken up until we drink it!" she laughs, preparing both bitter and sweetened versions in traditional gourds that some locals make at home from dried out squash shells.She also keeps a ceramic Amanda-branded gourd on hand to prepare mate with hot milk instead of water, saying the milk flavour spoils squash gourds.- 'Mate-karaoke nights' -

Wissam Hamdan, who grew up drinking mate in his village, decided to introduce the drink to a wider audience. In 2005, he opened The Mate Factory, a restaurant in the picturesque mountain town of Aley, near Beirut."A very big percentage of our customers are people who want to try it, because it's something that's specific to certain areas in Lebanon," he told AFP.He imports around five tons a year from Argentina, blending his preferred leaves, and offers peach and lemon flavoured mate along with traditional types.For a little less then 7 (five euros), customers get a tray with the tea, hot water and snacks.Hamdan says the formula has been successful, and on weekends he also offers "mate-karaoke" nights, serving mate-infused alcoholic drinks.Such innovations are far from the ritual observed in Ghada al-Halawi's home.She likes to serve the drink with the dried figs, raisins and nuts that are traditional snacks in the area, though she adds that chips and biscuits that have become more common.In between each drinker, she cleans the bombilla with two pieces of lemon rind, which lightly flavour the straw.The drink is best enjoyed with guests, she says, and she begins heating water as soon as visitors arrive at her house near a forest of Lebanon's famed cedar trees."When someone comes to your house, you have to make mate for them," she insists."If you haven't served them mate, it's like you haven't served them anything."



  MENA News Headlines
 Oct 8 2015 - UK official says Russia making situation in Syria more dangerousKuwait News Agency (KUNA)
(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) UK Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon, called on Russia Thursday to stop supporting the regime of Bashar Al-Assad and to stop the regime from bombing ...

 Oct 8 2015 - EP calls for intØ¢'l protection for E.JerusalemKuwait News Agency (KUNA)
(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) The European Parliament called Thursday East Jerusalem to be placed under immediate international protection after a series of violent clashes have left several ...

 Oct 8 2015 - USD to drop further as profit raise postpones - analystKuwait News Agency (KUNA)
(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) The rate of the US dollar is expected to drop against the main currencies in time of weakening expectations on the raise of profit rates in the US before the end ...

 Oct 8 2015 - Israeli forces arrests 40 Palestinians in West BankKuwait News Agency (KUNA)
(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) Forty Palestinians were arrested by the Israeli force during an operation in the West Bank, said a statement by the Palestinian prisoners club Thursday.According ...

 Oct 8 2015 - Syrian Army: Russian airstrikes reduced ISIL fighting capabilitiesKuwait News Agency (KUNA)
(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) Airstrikes by Russian warplanes reduced fighting capabilities of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in Syria, the Syrian Armed Forces Commander ...

 Oct 8 2015 - Western, Russian intervention in Syria making matters worse - Arab LeagueKuwait News Agency (KUNA)
(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) The Western and Russian intervention in Syria will not end the war and will not eliminate presence of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL), said ...

 Oct 8 2015 - Kuwait- Light rain, dust for Thursday evening weather - forecastKuwait News Agency (KUNA)
(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) Light rain and dust is expected for the weather Kuwait Thursday's evening, said a weather forecast official.Deputy head of Kuwait weather forecast department, ...

 Oct 8 2015 - Jewish settler stabbed in JerusalemKuwait News Agency (KUNA)
(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) A Jewish man was stabbed Thursday in his upper body in Jerusalem in the third stabbing attack in just over 24 hours.Haaretz newspaper said on its website that a ...

 Oct 8 2015 - OPEC oil price up to USD 48.24 pbKuwait News Agency (KUNA)
(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) The OPEC daily basket price went up Wednesday USD 2.16 and stood at USD 48.24 per barrel (pb) compared with USD 46.08 pb the previous day, the cartel said here on ...

 Oct 8 2015 - Kuwaiti seeks Costa Rica's support to get non-Permanent UNSC seatKuwait News Agency (KUNA)
(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) A Kuwaiti Parliamentary friendship group sought Costa Rica's President Luis Guillermo Solis' support to help Kuwait obtain a non-permanent seat at the UN Security ...




Click to Apply


Middle East North Africa - Financial Network

MENAFN News Market Data Countries Tools Section  

Middle East North Africa - Financial Network

Main News
News By Industry
News By Country

Islamic Finance News
Private Equity News

How-To Guides
Technology Section

Travel Section

Search News

Market Indices
Quotes & Charts

Global Indices
Arab Indices


Oil & Energy

Currencies Cross Rates
Currencies Updates
Currency Converter

USA Stocks
Arab Stocks

Saudi Arabia 

Economic Calendar
Financial Glossary

Financial Calculators

RSS Feeds [XML]

Corporate Monitor


Real Estate
Submit Your Property

Arab Research
Buy a Research

Press Releases
Submit your PR

Join Newsletters

© 2014 menafn.com All Rights Reserved.  Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Advertise | About MENAFN | Career Opportunities | Feedback | Help