El Almacen Yerba Mate Café

Last weekend my friend Ashleigh asked me to meet her at El Almacen Yerba Mate Café, a café specializing in the South American infusion yerba mate.

Ashleigh and I met when we were both living in Paris and built a strong friendship over a love of unique cocktails, hidden gem restaurants, the Bon Marche Epicerie, and climbing onto her rooftop for the best view of the city.

If she says there's somewhere we have to try out, I go.  She has great taste and I'm never disappointed.

So on a chilly Sunday afternoon I stepped into the warmth of El Almacen and met Ashleigh at the bar.  I pulled off my big puffy jacket and got comfortable.

The friendly barista explained the different ways we could enjoy mate and helped us set up a traditional gourd version, while I ordered a mate latte on the side.

She filled a tiny wooden gourd with ground mate leaves and explained how to pour in the water, placed the  bombilla (a filter-tipped metal straw), and take small sips before passing it to a friend.

The mate has a strong earthy taste but was extremely invigorating and fun to try out.  My latte was much milder, and more delicious to me, but not nearly as exciting as the gourd.

The mate actually isn't caffeinated, so you can drink up in the afternoon and not worry about hitting your pillow later on.

If you're looking for a unique tea experience I highly recommend stopping by.  I hear there's also fresh empanadas.

We left in the evening and Ashleigh and I hurried down the street so she could pick up some of her favourite smoked paprika from a specialty spice store as it was closing.  She's a gem.

El Almacen, 1078 Queen St. W., 416-516-2898.

Photos from Toronto Life (Catherine Hayday)