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Fancy a brew? Why England’s footballers are hooked on mate tea

The Guardian logo The Guardian 14/06/2018 Kay Plunkett-Hogge

Traditional Argentinian mate tea in a calabash gourd with bombilla stick. © Getty Images/iStockphoto Traditional Argentinian mate tea in a calabash gourd with bombilla stick. They say it gives the energy boost of coffee, has the health benefits of tea and the endorphin buzz of chocolate. It is the national drink of Argentina, beloved by the pope and, thanks to coach Mauricio Pochettino, half of the Tottenham Hotspur dressing room. And now the England dressing room, too. Not least Spurs and England defender Eric Dier, who said this week that he is a little bit addicted to it.

If Dier’s advocacy is anything to go by, mate tea (pronounced ma-teh) could soon become as popular in Britain as it is in South America.

It is made by steeping the dried leaves of a Paraguayan holly plant in hot water, and is drunk from a cup-like gourd through a metal straw known as a bombilla, which also functions as an in-cup tea strainer. And while it may be an acquired taste – its flavour is best described as somewhere between a grassy green tea and a bergamot-less Earl Grey – its main attraction is that it is not only good for you, but makes you feel great.

Tottenham Hotspur's Eric Dier during the Premier League match at Wembley Stadium, London © Adam Davy/PA Archive/PA Images Tottenham Hotspur's Eric Dier during the Premier League match at Wembley Stadium, London That its energy boost is akin to coffee is not surprising: mate (also known as yerba mate) contains just over half the caffeine of the average americano. But mate drinkers don’t experience the jitters, sleeplessness or the energy crashes that plague the coffee fan. Enthusiasts also claim it helps improve mental acuity and aids digestion. In the words of the Pasteur Institute, which published a study of it back in 1964: “It is difficult to find a plant equal to mate’s nutritional value.”

All of which makes one wonder why it has taken so long for it to catch on in the UK. Perhaps because it is marketed as a health food instead of South America’s best-kept secret? Still, if the England team does well in this World Cup, and Dier keeps singing mate’s praises, it surely can’t be long before the rest of us stick a brew on.

How to make mate

Yerba Mate tea © provided by Shutterstock Yerba Mate tea • Heat water to no more than 85C.

• Half fill your gourd with the tea then, with a hand over the top, shake it upside down to bring the finer, powdery bits of leaf to the top.

• Turn the gourd up and remove your hand. You want the mate to be piled up along one side. At this point, some people wet the mate with cold water, others don’t. Now you’re ready to brew.

• Add the hot water until the mate is almost completely, but not quite, covered.

• Drinking mate is a social thing, where the gourd and bombilla are shared: the first brew is drunk by the brewer to make sure it is up to par.

• Re-brew the same leaves again and again until they lose their flavour, and everyone has had enough.

Related: Why Orange Juice May Be Better for You if You Freeze It First (provided by Buzz60)

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