Seeing as how in the last post I talked about the great festivities that are nearly upon us here in Chile, and the excessive consumption of alcohol associated with said party, it seems worthwhile to give a small platform to that most watery and insipid after-dinner refreshment or afternoon cure-all, the aguita de hierbas. Tea in Chile is tea, from the plant that makes tea. Anything else is not “té de hierbas” (which would be a bad translation) but rather an aguita (or agua) de hierbas. Careful on those direct translations, they’ll get you every time (details to follow, of course).
Bueno (well). So here in Chile, you will often be offered an herbal tea after dinner or in the afternoon. On many occasions I have been offered a snip of this or that in a cup, or perhaps even the urban version a selection of teabags containing herbs. For me, for years, the most dreaded of all of these snips or bags was boldo.
Boldo is a tree that’s native to Chile, a slow-growing sclerophyllous (that means thick-leaved) tree that has a delicious green almost menthol-like smell (but nowhere near as strong as eucalyptus). It’s native to Chile and wherever you are, you can guaranteee that one of the aguitas de hierbas that you will be offered is boldo. For years, I tried to be game, tried to like boldo “tea” because it seemed an offense to not like what seems to be Chileans’ favorite.
I’ll be honest here, I didn’t like it because I detected a strong flavor reminiscent of the smell of unclean litterbox, and though I do miss having a cat, that is one feature of not having a cat that I do not miss.
F, a Chilean friend of mine who moved to the south of Chile to be a professor (and knows more about sea creatures than most living humans, and that’s no lie) was telling me one day that he couldn’t even fathom what it is people don’t like about boldo, but that Americans always think it’s unappealing. I didn’t have the heart to tell him about the litterbox, but he might read here, in which case he probably knows by now. Hi, F!
And you know, I hate to be predictable, so I had tried and tried boldo “tea”, and suffered through many a scrunched-up face as I gulped the tea down. So I was pretty surprised when I bought a variety pack of herbal tea the other day, with menta (mint) and manzanilla (chamomile) and boldo (yeah, boldo) and tried the boldo just one last time and found it to be litterbox free. It was fragrant, green, and not entirely vile. I’m still not singing the praises of boldo loudly and with vigor, but I guess it just goes to show you that tastes can change, that boldo isn’t disgusting, and that sometimes it’s better to hold your opinion than broadcast it. I must remind myself of that sometime.
And if you were wondering, South America has a long tradition of drinking tisanes, or herbal teas. The ones we see the most here are:
There may be some more, but these are the ones I’ve had thrust upon me or offered to me in recent years. I must admit that I had to do a little research to find out what some of those teas were, and I should probably write another post with their alleged medicinal qualities, but mainly I was shocked that poleo is pennyroyal, since that is an herb that is known to cause what we talked about in this post, which let’s just say is frowned upon here in Chile.
But I like learning new things, and also exploring new websites like www.chileflora.com, which seems to be a good resource on Chilean plants, sells seeds and apparently they can also take you on tours. Where you will, wait, wait, you’re going to like this:
Okay class, let’s review. The main difference between see and watch? Right, it’s about the mobility of the item (going to go see a movie being a broad exception). So unless these rooted examples of national heritage and plant kingdom splendor uproot themselves and take a walk around the block, this is (you guessed it), another bad translation. Perhaps plant tours or plant sighting, even plant-peeping, if you want to get cute about it. But plant-watching? I don’t care if you’d use the word avistar in Spanish and for whales that’s watching. Plants? not the same as whales.
And now we can find out if Chileflora.com has the time and energy of the Chilean government, which, when brought face-to-face with the truth that shattered meat is, indeed hard to come by, actually changed their website, estoeschile.cl.
I feel so powerful. It must be all the boldo.