Mate mania

You know Club Mate. But the story of real mate starts in Brazil. For a taste of the stuff, Meta Mate Bar is a café and shop that not only sells the drink in several forms but also enlightens customers about the benefits.

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Photo by Maia Schoenfelder

You know Club Mate. It’s that fizzy, kickedup soft drink beloved in Mitte galleries and F’hain squats alike. Low in sugar and high in caffeine, it will get you through a day at the office or – with a Schluck of Wodka – propel you through the Berlin night. But what is mate really?

The story starts in southern Brazil, where the indigenous Guaraní and Tupí people first steeped the yerba mate leaf in hot water, creating the infused drink known as mate. Traditionally served with a metal straw from a shared hollow gourd, mate eventually obtained near-religious importance throughout much of South America.

While travelling the continent, Fabrício do Canto was inspired to spread the mate gospel to Berlin. In July, he and his wife Krithika opened Meta Mate Bar, a café and shop that not only sells the drink in several forms but also enlightens customers about the benefits – both spiritual and physical – of the little vitamin-packed, antioxidant-rich Latin American leaf. Every summer, the couple and their three children head to Brazil and personally pick the leaves in old-growth forests.

The leaves are then smoked and dried by hand and transformed into two types of mate: the common industrial version (Argentinean Rosamonte, €5/500g) and a fresh, harder-to-find, bright-green powdered variety (€5/100g). The latter is served the traditional way: a group sits on the ground and passes the mate in a circle, a social ritual said to purify the soul (€5-10 for the mate, depending on size of group).

For purification on the go, there’s Meta’s high-quality industrial mate, as well as mate lattes, other drinks and a range of raw, vegan and milk-based desserts. But keep your eyes peeled for ‘pirates’: Meta Mate is also a meeting point for the Piratenpartei, of which Fabrício is an active member.