Origin: Corrientes, Argentina
Producer: Cooperativa Agrícola de la Colonia Liebig
Body: Very Light
Cycle: Very Short
Aged: 18 months
I stand in the kitchen, pour my Stanley® thermos, and take that first sip from my calabash. Why haven’t I tried this mate before, I wonder? I’m transported to fields of subtle and sweet things — honeysuckles, raw honey, lemongrass, lemon verbena, myrtle leaf, and crisp chardonnay. Smiling, I think about about it for a few seconds as the nectar-like infusion lingers, unfurling buttery-silk layers of fruits, cherries, vanilla, and citrusy notes.
Oh man, have I been sleeping on Liebig Original or what? This highly obscure brand went under my radar for years. My former apprehension towards lighter mates may have been the culprit, robbing me of those less pronounced mates lost in the sea of established classics.
This little gem is sand dollar awash. The sweet layering is like sipping though a symphony. One that starts with a bouquet of caramel, nougat, sweet milk chocolate, and buttery popcorn, gracefully evolving into a complexly light body, pregnant with elegant saccharine flavors gliding across a minimally astringent and herbaceous stage. This brand doesn’t shout, but softly whispers.
Winter harvested, aged 18 months, and cut clean with only trace elements of powder, Liebig is weightlessly crafted. And they’ve done a masterly job. Several years ago, with a palate heavily tuned into the super robust and muscular mates — sipping my way through the dark and rich Argentine brands throughout Buenos Aires — a mate such a this I would’ve scoffed at. In fact, I did just that. Playadito, also produced by this co-op, was quickly dismissed as too thin; the antithesis of what I thought a good Argentine mate should be at the time.
But I’ve since evolved and now take great pleasure in this category of attractively light mates; light in taste, body, and, yes, even with very low cycle as many of them show.
Mate doesn’t always have to deliver aggressive blasts of high energy and full body flavors, notwithstanding those well-positioned characteristics of the tea commonly sought after. Like traditional green and black teas, there’s a wide spectrum of bodies, light and heavy, between. Equally, there’s no dearth of variety with yerba mate.
And such is the exploration of this herb and all teas—these tastes are alive and move, and characters evolve and drift between soils, temperatures, and the hands of those that produce the mate. Everything remains in flux.
Liebig is a delicate mate, so take care when preparing the water. I found a sweet spot between 145º – 150ºF (62º – 65ºC ). As to not mask the fruity, ethereal nature of this brand, don’t exceed 160ºF (71ºC) if you like your mate on the hotter side. Perfectly suited for new and established Materos alike. Children may even enjoy this brand, since it’s easy on the palate. With its low caffeine, sweet nimble corpus, Liebig is a palo in the rough, deserving of the gold wrapper.