In an effort to further the discussion of Yerba Mate in the States, we’ll regularly offer our thoughts on a few brands large and small, such as Guayaki, ECOTEAS, Circle of Drink, Aviva Yerba Mate, Mate Factor, Matear, YMateina, Yerba Montana and others.
Circle of Drink’s beginnings
Today’s reflections are around Circle of Drink, one of the most design-centric and gourmet-focused Yerba Mate companies in the United States. In 2011, Dave Mate Askaripour started Circle of Drink with the intention of educating Americans on a drink he fell in love with while traveling throughout South America. First, he started with videos, such as this popular one: How to Prepare a Good Mate with Dave Mate. From videos, he moved to articles, and from articles, he moved to online video hangouts that would bring people interested in the “Drink of the Gods” together for hours; embodying all that Yerba Mate is: community, positivity, connection, and health. From those online video hangouts came the Circle of Drink community, which is a private Facebook group with over 1,000 members worldwide.
But as time went on, Dave realized that not only could he continue educating and connecting people worldwide on something as beautiful and transformative as Yerba Mate, but that he could also work to bring them products that were an extension of himself and the community he built. Today, Circle of Drink boasts a wide and frequently changing offering of bombillas, gourds, and Yerba Mate.
Yerba Mate education
While Circle of Drink has grown in more ways than one, what remains the same is their dedication to Yerba Mate education; especially as it relates to the traditional way of drinking mate with a gourd and bombilla. They offer step-by-step guides on curing, water temperature, cycles, mates vs. cuias, roasting mate, selecting a bombilla, and much more. They even have an A – Z (well, really A – T) glossary on Yerba Mate terms for beginners and veterans who may want a refresher on updated words and phrases as the drink that is “more than a drink” continues to circle the globe. This, for me, beyond innovation and producing mate in a way that helps the environment, is what is most important. Too often do people consume products without knowledge of their rich history, which is a shame given that it’s mate’s rich history that only adds to the overall experience of drinking and sharing it with others.
Tradition meets innovation
Without a doubt, Circle of Drink is one of the most innovative mate companies worldwide. In the same way Guayaki brought mate to the American masses, that Kraus revolutionized the world of mate with clean, organic Yerba, Circle of Drink is continually pushing the boundaries of the products we used to consume mate; especially gourds.
Stainless steel. Calabash. Spanish cedar. Lignum vitae (hardest wood in the world). Circle of Drink carries mates in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes for those who appreciate the tradition of calabash, and those who want a pastel-colored, double-walled, stainless steel; something more modern. What’s also impressive is that their offering is constantly changing, so you never know what they’re going to come up with next.
Gourmet Yerba Mate
Unlike other States-based companies who offer Yerba Mate at lower, more affordable prices, Circle of Drink counts itself among one of the most expensive Yerba Mate companies in the world. This is both good and bad. The good part is that you can trust you’re getting a quality product for the price you’re paying. The bad part is the price you’re paying. In some cases, you may find a pound of Yerba Mate costing anywhere between $26 USD and $129 USD. Yes, $129 USD.
According to Circle of Drink:
We think of mate along the lines of a fine wine or complex craft beer—it’s nothing short of a gourmet tea, with regional varieties and a growing repertoire of exquisite blends. When possible, we select the finest organic and natural herbs to craft our teas. We spare no expense when it comes to quality, safe, clean ingredients. You’ll find no additives or “natural flavors” in our mate. Only simple, whole ingredients, combined in a way that’ll change your definition of tea forever (e.g. Chocolate Prophecy and Princely Peach Rooibos).
So, if you needed a justification for their astronomical prices, there you have it.
Opinion of their mate
When it comes to their actual mate, outside of the price, Circle of Drink is as innovative as they are with their gourds. These blends are actually one of a kind. For example, Piney Gates of Heaven includes actual foraged pine needles, orange, and lemon. Orange Tango Chai contains the following ingredients: Organic yerba mate, organic black tea, organic cinnamon, organic nutmeg, organic vanilla, organic cardamom, organic cloves. And they even have one called, “Sangria.”
I’ve been fortunate enough to have tried a handful of Circle of Drink’s mates and, like many things in life, you may have to work a bit to find what suits you best. I love the breath-refreshing mint of Lady’s Breath, but can’t stand the overpowering cloves in New York Spice. Fortunately, if you’re just looking for some regular, non-experimental yerba, you can get your hands on something like Mission or Anna Park.
Overall thoughts on Circle of Drink
My overall thoughts are that Circle of Drink is an education-focused, design-centric, and boundary-pushing company. A visit to their website is like playing a slot machine, because you truly never know what you’re going to get, but what you can feel confident about is the quality and intention of the products you’ll use and consume. When it comes to mate, I’m a traditionalist. I enjoy my mate amargo and without any additional flavors and tastes. But even someone like myself can appreciate the care that Circle of Drink puts into its blends, and I definitely can’t knock something unless I’ve tried it. Sky-high prices aside, I see Circle of Drink continuing to spread its influence throughout the States, albeit potentially with a more luxury-focused clientele than we’re used to seeing mate companies market to.
If you have any of your own thoughts, please leave them in the comments below. Discussion is good!