I never thought of myself as a morning person. I mean – to be clearer: I thought of myself as the kind of person who couldn’t possibly jump out of bed and straight to task. I was always more the “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” type, or at least “don’t bother listening to me until I’ve had my coffee.”
I’m not sure why, but I just always believed that you were either born a morning person, or you were not and that’s the way it was for your life. Naturally, I always admired people who could pop right out of bed and go for a run, maybe hit the gym or jump into some other important tasks, but I never expected to be among their number.
As I got a bit older however, I started to realize what a sacred time of day the early morning is: the human world is still while nature hums around us, our phones are not ringing and any other people you come upon have an air of tranquility about them. It is as though morning people, the real early risers I mean, are part of a secret club and they smile at each other knowingly as they share the magic of this special time of day.
A February 2009 trip to Costa Rica is what took my relationship with mornings from a casual friendship to a faithful and symbiotic, loving relationship. It’s also the trip where I discovered one of my favourite teas, yerba mate.
My wife and I travelled to a tiny surf village on the Pacific coast in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica where we shared a modest rented villa with some friends from back home. The evening sunsets are breathtaking and happen to take place around 6:30PM at that time of year.
It’s strange: we get early sunsets here in Ontario in the winter too, but we catch ourselves grumbling about them. On the other hand, when I travel to a place such as this one, I find that I get back into a natural routine more in tune with the body’s circadian rhythm of old. Perhaps it is the act of physically removing ourselves from our regular routines that changes our outlooks so drastically, but the sun seems to set at the exact right time and restful sleep seems to soon follow it.
But back to early mornings. The great part about getting into this natural flow is the ability it gives one to pop up at first light, in this case around 5:00AM. During the course of our stay, we got into a schedule of the wives heading for early morning yoga at 6:00 while myself and my friend would hit the surf. To be clear, I am by no means a good surfer. Surfing is, like so many other things, more about the practice and the journey. I think that most of all, surfing is about re-connecting with nature and with self. I would wager that even at the elite level, most surfers would agree.
After 60-90 minutes or so of paddling, focusing, falling, learning and laughing we would meet our wives after each session at a nearby juice bar. Following the morning’s exertions, fresh fruits and juices are the most divine reward you can give your body – trust me on that one, but also feel free to try it for yourself. I noticed though, a lot of the locals were ordering an iced drink called a mate latte.
I love my morning coffee and the Ticos of Costa Rica have it dialed with their morning café con leche – a creamy, delicious cappuccino type of preparation. I had started to notice though, that a sudden jolt of caffeine into the bloodstream seemed somehow at odds with the flow of life we had gotten into. It was like my morning cuppa was a rude, boisterous intruder into an otherwise tranquil state.
Yerba mate is traditionally and widely consumed as a tea in Central and South America. Customarily, it is consumed hot and the infusion is prepared in a gourd or gourd-shaped container with a metal straw called a bombilla serving as both the strainer and the passage to the mouth. While it is still caffeinated, yerba mate contains only around one third of the caffeine level contained in an equal amount of coffee. This makes it a great way to taper off any caffeine consumption issues you may have – a reverse gateway drug, if you will.
The iced mate latte was cooling, slightly sweet and richly satisfying to the mouth and body after much exercise and thrashing about in salt water for an hour or so. It was an entirely agreeable experience – delicious in flavor and delicious in how it connected me further to this incredible place, its delightful people and its heavenly, awe-inspiring mornings.
Recipe: Iced Yerba Mate Latte
Makes 1 Serving
- ¼ cup of water
- 2 Tbsp Yerba Mate
- 2 tsp (or to taste) agave nectar or sweetener of your choice
- ½ cup milk of your choice (I use dairy)
Boil the water on the stove, then add the tea. Let steep for 3 to 5 minutes, then strain into your cup and stir in your sweetener. Make sure you steep long enough to get a strong infusion, as you are about to add ice, some of which will melt and water down your tea.
Fill the cup with ice, leaving only enough room for the milk. Once the tea has cooled, stir in the milk and enjoy.