Hola Mate

18 06 2009

One of my favorite things about Argentina was the mate ritual. In South America, yerba mate has been known as the “drink of the gods” for centuries. The bitter tea takes a little getting used to, but it is packed with vitamins and insanely healthy. It is also a tradition in itself.

Mate is the national drink of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Southern Brazil. And drinking mate is not just healthy, it’s ritual. Mate gourds, usually metal or wood or a combination, are gorgeous, artful creations.  The gourd is shared between a group, filled with hot water each time and passed from person to person, each of whom drinks the entire gourdful of tea through the bombilla (straw filter) before pouring more water and passing the gourd. It’s a sharing of friendship and an honor to share another’s mate.

All this is a long way of explaining that mate is yet another thing I wish I could have brought back from Argentina in unlimited supply. But now I’ve discovered the next bet thing: Guayakí is a company that not only sells gourds and mate but that does so with a larger purpose in mind. The company partners with small farmers and indigenous communities, aiding in conservation and community development in the sub-tropic cultures of South America. Named for the Aché Guayakí people native to the mate forest, the company practices a business model called Market Driven Restoration, allowing consumer purchases of yerba mate in North America to support indigenous communities and sustainable agriculture and reforestation projects in Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

Namely, not only can I feel good about enjoying my mate again, I feel good about helping save the South American landscape I’ve come to love so much.





Where the Internet Is

7 08 2008

As a freelance writer who gets a little stir crazy at home, one of the biggest challenges is finding new and appealing places where I can settle in and log on to get work done.

My usual go-to joint is Gramstand, a fantastic little tea place just blocks from home, where the internet is free, the people are nice, and the great tea drinks abound. Not only that, but I can settle in and work for hours, or a whole day without being bothered. (I just discovered this week, too, that the Stand, as I like to call it, is connected with a “Coworking” group, Coobric, whose mission it is to link up freelancers like myself so they don’t feel as alone in the world (enter warm and fuzzies), which makes me feel even better about hanging out there all day every day.

But lately Granstand’s basement, where I typically camp out, has felt a little stuffy. It’s still great for settling in to a quiet workspace, complete with big tables that allow me to spread out and friendly seeming people, but in the balmy days of summer in New York, a basement with no AC gets to be a bit of a stuffy, sometimes stinky place. Not to mention that being without daylight can sometimes take its toll on a girl.

That’s not to say that I’m ruling out the G-stand, but today I just needed a break from “the regular.” In desperate need of daylight, Libby (my freelance buddy) and I decided to pick a good spot in between our respective Upper East and Lower East Side homes, and headed to Bryant Park, where the sunlight, and the wireless, are free. It turned out to be quite the adventure, but proved more conducive to people watching (the lunch crowd there can get quite feisty when fighting over seating, especially on summer Thursdays when Broadway comes to Bryant) than to working. The internet was patchy and there was a bit too much going on for concentration.

But where are there other options for internet in Midtown? We found a great site designating some, but most didn’t work out so well. Until we found SubtleTea, Midtown’s version of G-stand, and a little bit of heaven. Big windows let in lots of daylight, and a long wood table makes for great communal workspace. Plus a great selection of mags means built-in break times. Then there is the tea selection, which is so vast as to be almost overwhelming, though the friendly staff is always on hand to advise—and give samples. Then there are a wide array of yummy frappes, from peanut butter chai to some great green tea concoction, and more tea-inspired tasties than one can possibly imagine. My new favorite place? Possibly…





Distractions

3 04 2008

I’m guilty this week of blog neglect. What have I been doing that’s so important it’s kept me from blogging? Many things, actually. (Cue list…)

  • Freelancing. Yes, freelancing! I’m editing Barcelona hot spot reviews for a soon-to-be-launched website (which for now must remain nameless).
  • Spending time offManhattan. That slick transition really just means more freelancing. offManhattan is a great (green) site that promotes travel and exploration with an eco-friendly bent. My first piece is a review of the Brooklyn restaurant Relish and I’m looking forward to visiting and writing about more places and events in the Tri-State area.
  • Reading several books at once. I’m currently into Their Eyes Were Watching God, Eimi (a recently re-published and formerly out of print E.E. Cummings prose work — woohoo!), and I’m soon to be starting up (again) my 2-women book group on the discussion of Anna Karenina. Is it weird that with all these going on I have a strong urge to dive into Franny and Zooey for the thousandth time?
  • Drinking tea. My new “office” is just five minutes from home. It’s called Gramstand and it’s fabulous. The upstairs is warm and airy with a handful of small tables, but downstairs the basement is converted into a little lounge/office, complete with a few couches, one family table, and several small tables for working or socializing. I’ve been going there several times a week and camping out for the entire day. It’s a good way to work and get out of the house. And their many varietals of tea are all delicious and good for the soul (though my personal fave is the rich, delicious Vanilla Teaccino, or as I like to call it, Heaven in a Cup).
  • Eating. Lent is over and I can have sweets again, but I have yet to order alfajores. My consolation prize was a slice of peanut butter pie at Old Devil Moon. There aren’t words to describe the amazingness of this pie: creamy, peanuty, chocolaty, with a gram cracker crust. I wanted to lick the plate.
  • More reading. On top of all the books I’ve been reading, I’ve been catching up on my magazines too. Currently I’m spending a lot of time sifting through the New York Times Spring Travel Magazine that’s recently come out. I looked at one article and can’t stop looking. I suppose I can write it off as research though…