Thursday, September 2, 2010

Maté is not as Interesting as Coffee

I was downtown yesterday afternoon, in The Wine Shop and Tasting Bar, sipping a very nice chianti from Jack's Glass when Santiago, the energetic owner of Top Leaf Maté, located next door, popped in to catch up on a tennis game showing on the widescreen TV.

(I have no idea who was playing. There were people leaping about, that's all I know.)

I mentioned to him that I'd recently given up drinking coffee because coffee, even decaf, causes feelings of anxiety while other caffeinated beverages do not. 

He had an explanation: coffee's anxiety-causing mechanism is not due to its caffeine, but due to its acidity, which causes jittery stomach discomfort. 

There certainly is a somatic component to anxiety: a gnawing feeling of emptiness and discomfort in the gut, giving plausibility to his claim. 

But I have a couple problems with the explanation. 

First, when I was a coffee drinker, jolts of dread would wake me in the middle of the night to worry, at length and uselessly, about things over which I have no control. The jolts came with cold sweats and a racing mind, but none of that hollow gut feeling. And since I very seldom drink coffee after 4 in the afternoon, there would not be any coffee in my stomach.

Second, what about other acidic beverages, like orange juice? Jack loves the tart juice of a freshly-squeezed orange, and suffers no ill effects after a big glass. 

But there is no question in my mind that something present in both full-caffeine and de-caffeine coffee that is responsible for my anxiety. Just what it is, remains a puzzle.

So I've been drinking tea and feeling miles better. I've trained the staff at Townsend's Tea House to prepare matcha green tea the way I like it: very concentrated and served in a small cup. 

And somehow I came home last night with a Top Leaf Maté window sticker and half kilogram bag of maté.

I made a strong cup of it last evening. Like tea, it's calming, like tea, it doesn't seem to trigger anxiety, and like tea, it's not as interesting to drink as good coffee. 

To me, tea and maté simply lack the richness and complexity of coffee. You can tart up either beverage with flavorings, the way soccer moms at Starbucks conceal the coffee in their drinks under milk and flavorings, but that ain't how Jack rolls. When Jack drank whisky, he drank it neat. When Jack smoked a pipe, he smoked English, not aromatic (flavored), blends. When Jack orders a pizza, it's usually a simple pizza Margherita. 

So as much as I love the smell and taste of a good cup of strong coffee (just a teaspoon of milk, please), it's just not worth the tsuris


  1. Next time you stop by Top Leaf ... look for my grandson Charlie who often plays his guitar there ~ or in the alley. Santiago is his buddy! I think he and partner Andrew (Glass Mangos) are playing First Friday at PoetArt House.

  2. " ... sipping a very nice chianti ... "

    Did you have fava beans with that?

    Re tea: Have you ever tried Lapsang Souchong? Very dark, smoky and intense. I don't know if you'll like the flavor, but you'll definitely know it's there.


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