Tea Straws

| 12/17/2014 9:15:00 AM

Tags: herbal tea, yerba mate, Maryland, Ilene White Freedman,

 Tea Mug

A bombilla is a Latin American tea straw used to drink yerba mate. Why not use it to enjoy all kinds of loose herbal teas?

I learned about yerba mate from Denise. Denise volunteers on our farm. She drives an hour from the city to spend the day on the farm, a connection to nature for her and a reminder of her mother land of Brazil. One cold day she came to the farm with a canteen of hot water and a traditional drinking gourd filled with tea leaves. She told me they were yerba mate leaves, and she described the traditional ceremony of adding water and passing a drinking gourd around a circle of friends. She showed me the beautiful stainless steel drinking straw, a bombilla, which strained the loose tea from the bottom of the straw. She pours the water at drinking temperature, not piping hot, so she can sip it through the straw.

I was intrigued. I bought yerba mate and a bombilla tea straw at my local food co-op. Yerba mate is a strong caffeinated tea, without the caffeine effects of coffee and with a reputation for significant health benefits. I am not used to caffeine and it still gave me a shaky reaction. But really, it wasn’t the mate I was after. It was the tea straw. I love drinking from stainless steel straws. I love the aesthetic of a collection of tea straws in a mug, ready for friends and tea. I broadened my tea collection to include quality loose teas from Mountain Rose Herbs. I will never go back to Celestial Seasonings. No more “natural flavors” flavoring my tea. I can use the straw to strain a mug of dried herbs from my herb garden, like my own chamomile flowers. Perhaps I will begin to mix my own tea combinations, another branch of the DIY passion. I can personalize the herbs in my mixes. But even without getting into mixing my own teas, drinking loose tea has improved the quality of tea in my life.

I was excited to see Denise the next week. I showed her my mug of herb tea and my tea straw. She looked at my tea and then she looked at me. She smiled and shook her head with an expression that said “Silly American…” She clucked her tongue and said, “Wait ‘til I tell my friends back in Brazil.” 

What?! Here I am, taking in the cultural tools, but I am still breaking the social rules? I know that I am not drinking from a gourd or passing the cup around the circle in traditional manner. But apparently, it is enough of a social faux pas to drink anything but mate from the bombilla. I chuckled. I’m always breaking the rules. I asked Denise, “How do you drink a cup of chamomile tea?” She described the familiar process of putting loose herbs in a tea ball strainer. But, of course.

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