Saturday, September 26, 2009

Yerba Mate - if you drink it or plan to, you should read this.

When I opened The Good Leaf on Lark Street, I knew I intended to serve traditional yerba mate (I can't add an accent mark, so just know it's pronounced mah tay, not mate like first mate), but had no idea how popular it would be. It is really popular!  So here's a little about yerba mate; interesting stuff, but please read on to be aware of data regarding mate and potential cancer risk.

Yerba Mate is a species of the holly plant native to South America. Yerba means herb and mate means gourd (or something like that).  Yerba mate leaves are infused to yield an energizing beverage that many people enjoy as an alternative to coffee. It is traditionally consumed in a hollowed out gourd called a mate, with a filter straw called a bombilla.

There are two basic types of mate - green and roasted. Roasted Mate tends to have a smoother and more mellow flavor, and green mate is a bit sharper and bitter. In my shop, they're equally popular. Mate is often blended with other herbs and flavors, and I create custom mate blends for many of my customers. With the increase in popularity of flavored teas, there has also been interest in flavored mates, and my mate decadence, which is a mate with chocolate and caramel flavor has been hard to keep in stock.

Evidently, yerba mate is consumed everywhere and all the time in many South American countries. Though I haven't traveled there myself to experience this first hand, I heard that it's not uncommon for people to carry around their mates wherever they go. I have also heard that there are mate stands all over the place for people to refresh their mate. Evidently it is common to drink mate with friends, passing the mate from guest to guest, but many people drink it on their own all day long.

Preparing Yerba Mate

In traditional mate preparation, you fill your gourd about 1/3 to 1/2 way with mate, some cool water is initially poured into the gourd, followed by warm water. Like green tea, brewing in boiling water may cause yerba mate to become bitter, and may even be associated with increased cancer risk. After allowing some time for the herb to infuse the water, the infusion is consumed and the gourd refilled. A single gourd is often shared by several friends, with each refill being passed to the next participant. Yerba Mate may be consumed warm or cold, and may be shared or consumed alone. 

Mate may also be prepared as you would prepare any tea. This method of prep is referred to as mate cocida. For mate cocida preparation, infuse 1 teaspoon per 6-8 ounce cup in steaming water as long as desired.

Yerba Mate and Caffeine

Yerba mate contains mateine, and in reviewing the research I can't come to a confident conclusion as to whether or not mateine is chemicaly similar or identical to caffeine, or whether it is a different compound. There appears to be a heated debate which has gone on for decades. In any case, the experience of mate is energizing yet relaxing in a way, and I have consumed a good amount of it in the past few years, so I can attest to my favorite part of the mate buzz - no crash. Therefore as far as I'm concerned, either mateine is a different substance than caffeine, or other elements of the yerba mate plant work alongside the caffeine to alter the way it affects the body, and it doesn't really matter to me if it's really the same thing as caffeine or not.

Yerba Mate and Cancer

There is also heated debate as to the health benefits of mate that I have to share with you. Some research suggests that mate offers significant health benefits, many believe it is a weight loss aid, but other research suggests that frequent mate consumption may be associated with increased occurrence of various cancers, especially esophageal. Here's a link to an article that I believe summed it up well:  This review of the literature suggests that the mate risks are not related to water temperature, but may be more related to the quantity of mate consumed.  Their conclusions would suggest that mate cocida preparation is more prudent than traditional gourd preparation. 

On the other hand, other data suggest that yerba mate may help fight cancer. Such reports have typically been found in the alternative medicine literature, where reports of yerba mate's myriad health benefits proliferate. Additionally, the Yerba Mate Association of the Americas provides information about the health benefits of mate, suggesting mate offers greater anti-oxidant benefit than coffee or green tea, and does address the mate/cancer link by attributing those findings to other factors such as smoking in the mate drinking population, and consuming hot mate through a metal straw causing scalding of the throat.  Here's that link:

Finally, the FDA classifies Yerba Mate as GRAS (generally recognized as safe), for what that's worth.

Once agin, I can't come to any conclusions with confidence, but I can't be flip about the data on mate and cancer the way I am about mate and caffeine. I think it is something that you need to be aware of and take into consideration when you choose whether or not to drink mate, and how to prepare it. 

At the end of the day

So the bottom line appears to be, mate is popular, mate is energizing and offers a pleasant buzz that is similar to a caffeine buzz, but without side effects.  Mate is fun and enjoyable, and mate may offer some health benefits but regular consumption of traditionally prepared yerba mate may be associated with certain cancers.  I find these data of concern, but not enough to remove mate from my tea menu.  I do, however, plan to make this information available to customers who purchase mate paraphernalia. You need to make your own decision about mate; for me, I choose to prepare my mate as mate cocida, and as with most other substances, I find moderation to be a good choice, and I do and will continue to enjoy mate from time to time.

Friday, September 25, 2009

No Farmer's Market Tomorrow

We will not be at the Delmar Farmer's Market this weekend, but will be returning next weekend.  The Delmar Market will continue in its Bethlehem Middle School location through the end of October. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Premium Tea made Accessible

Fall is here, and I just brought Golden Buddha Oolong back into inventory. This Wuyi Oolong, also known as Jing Fo, is a relatively new cultivar.  It brews into a light amber cup with toasty notes of caramel and cinnamon, and it's one of my favorite teas.  I had it in stock last year, and unfortunately, the price on many of the Wuyi Oolongs (as well as some other popular teas) increased significantly over the past year. I tried to stay away, but customers continued to request it, and I missed it too much myself.  So Golden Buddha is back! 

I also added a webpage for our premium line of teas.  We have Gyokuro, Silver Needles, and several others.  They are such good teas, and I want the experience of sipping one to be available to everyone.  So I updated the pricing for all our premium tea.  They're now available for purchase by the ounce and I reduced the prices on the larger size packages of teas in this line.  Now these sublime teas can be an affordable luxury, with even the most expensive tea in our line costing about 85cents/cup when brewed!  Click here to explore our premium line.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lark Fest and Farmer's Market

We've been busy preparing for Lark Fest. Lark Fest is Albany's biggest street festival.  Musicians, merchants, and lots of people.  This year, Moby will be the headliner! At least on Lark St, this seems to be generating more excitement than President Obama's upcoming visit. 

During Lark Fest, we'll be offering a special limited but delicious tea bar menu. 

We'll be serving:
Orange Pekoe Black Tea
Almond Black Tea
Summertime Blue Black Tea
Tropical Fantasy Green Tea
Creme Saver Rooibos
Sweet Tart Tisane

Almond Milk Bubble Tea
Blue Hawaii Bubble Tea
Raspberry Delight Bubble Tea
Mango Green Bubble Tea
Cinnamon Bun Bubble Tea
and the famous Lark Street Pop!

Our full line of loose tea and teaware will be available. 

Weather's supposed to be good, so it promises to be a great day.  Hope to see lots of you there!

Oh, and Joe will be at the Delmar Farmer's Market tomorrow morning with a nice selction of our popular signature blends. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

September Tea Bar Promos

For the rest of September, we'll be running a few teabar promos.

Student Tuesdays: Show your student ID for $1 off any bubble tea or other specialty tea drink all day Tuesday.

State Worker Wednesdays: Stop in for your discount. $1 off any bubble tea or other specialty tea drink anytime on Wednesday with your government id.

Giving Back to Those Who Give on Thursdays: Hospital workers, EMTs, you who dedicate your career to helping others, we offer a little bit of gratitude with $1 off any bubble tea or other specialty tea drink on Thursdays.

Friday, September 11, 2009

This week at the Farmer's Market

This week at the Delmar Farmer's Market we'll be debuting our new tea tins.  Joe has a nice selection prepared to offer you including many of our most popular signature blends.

You'll find:
Root Beer Black Tea
Tropical Fantasy Green Tea
Love White Tea
Sweet Sin Rooibos
Chamomile Sonata
Tranquility Tisane
and Mate Decadence

and several others including Orange Pekoe, Gunpowder and Pure Rooibos.

New order forms will be available for anyone interested in ordering our other products.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Royal Tea!

Guess who is going to be enjoying a nice cup of Good Leaf Tea Oolong au Lait this afternoon?


Yep - the Royals are paying a visit to our Capital City today. It's the first visit by Dutch Royalty in 50 years! They'll be visiting the state museum and meeting with Mayor Jennings and Governor Paterson. Then they'll be visiting the Executive Mansion and enjoying scrumptious fare prepared by Executive Chef Noah Sheetz; and our tea will be served.

Okay, the TU story is not about the tea. But still; I'm excited!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

All Kinds of New!

We have been so, so busy this summer working on making changes. I am especially excited about our new packaging. We're now offering our teas in these beautiful new tins; they're brightly colored, and color coded according to tea variety. The tins are of a higher quality than our previous tins, they're larger, and offer greater value.

We introduced several new blends this summer including Sweet Sin, a pomegranate cinnamon flavored rooibos, Red Hot, a spicy cinnamon black tea, Relax, an herbal blend chock full o' soothing stuff, and a floral tisane we blended up for our dear customer and friend, Gerard. We are cleverly calling it Gerard's Blend. And we've got a few additional blends in development.

And finally, although I anticipated that it would take me a couple of hours and it took me about 3 months, our webstore is finally updated with all our new products. Check it out!