Out to eat every night. Fine french pasta. Bottles of local wines. Long walks with newly minted friends. Frequent social gatherings at my language school. Sharing mates (or should I say, chimas!). Then in the blink of an eye, it was all over.
That was my first week in Porto Alegre, Brazil, back in early March. Only a few months ago, but feels like an eternity. A week of juicy reverie, fresh encounters and buzzing excitement, then everything came to a screeching halt when the global pandemic of 2020 made its mark on Brazil.
Oh, boy, do I miss those first 7 glorious days.
All isn’t lost.
I’ve been here for coming on 3 months with more than a hot month to go, and I don’t regret a thing, even though I had no way of seeing how this trip would unfurl. I literally slipped into the country a few days before borders were sealed. And coming from New York, I’d call that double luck!
Let’s just say, I’m not the same person I was three months ago. Isolation promotes deep reflection. Already an introspective introvert that basks in my alone time, this is Monk Level and I’m cool with that. It’s like my INFJ personality went Super Saiyon!
It’s not easy to explain, but I look at the situation as a sort of training. The earth, itself, is a training facility and each situation like this is another course within the Greater Universal Training.
My intuition pencil has sharpened and I’ve tapped new barrels of creativity. I can feel so so so much more, both of myself and of others. Empaths will understand me well. Within the doubt and uncertainty, light and wisdom has shown through the darkness.
Working on a new collection
Most of my days have been spent working on the Spring Summer 2020 Circle of Drink Collection with traditional Brazilian cuais (gourds), bombas (bombillas) as the central theme, supported by a range range of accessories such as mate-inspired pins and pendants.
I’ve also been working on new mateware instruments such as scoopers (working name: Mate Scoop); tampers to mold mate inside the gourd (working name: Mate Shaper); and a new line of Circle of Drink necklaces in 14k and 925 silver. Bling Bling!
Books and Study
I’m addicted to learning, so being at home has always felt comfortable. Mate and books, yes, that’s my sort of party! Woo hoo! I’m re-reading Think and Grow Rich. This book has more to do with training your mind to stay in a positive flow than making money, but, heck, the latter isn’t bad either ;).
The Art of Learning by Waitzkin, showing me how to act without any action at all. And always studying all areas of design: fashion, color theory, fabrics, computer systems, architecture, product development etc.
Exercise, my saving grace
Daily long walks and jogs, a delicious reprieve and balm to the mind and body. Something about being outside, even if it’s just briefly each day, has been golden. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t join the camp of those who literally don’t step outside at all. No sir! I need to breatheeee…. I need to move. I need to see buildings and the horizon and clouds and birds and trees and ants. It roots me to Nature — and I am Nature. So, really, it Centers me. I’ll never take a good walk for granted again.
18 minutes of seated meditation per day is my magic pill. No prescription needed. Just a timer, comfy seat, and space. Try it and see.
Walking to my favorite park, Mohinos de Vento, is always a pleasure. I sit, meditate, snap photos of passersby and watch people. I am a People Watcher. Something so soothing to sit in peace and observing people interact. Am I the only one who loves this? I could sit for hours observing and studying people.
Mate at Home campaign
We developed a campaign to remind Materos across the world that we’re all together in this. I asked our community to submit an image of mate. Below, I compiled them into a short video collage (feel free to share on your social media!).
Things will never be the same
This pandemic has changed the game forever. How I look at sustainability within my life and business has dramatically changed. Having to send employees home and limit working hours; seeing others with no jobs at all, standing on lines for food; family friends passing away in hospitals; walking past shuttered businesses and people sleeping on the pavement.
How could anyone be the same after this? But as heartbreaking as it is, I’m also thankful for the opportunity to make improvements — insights only collected when you’re in the thick of things.
As my grandma always reminded me “Dave, everything happens for a reason.” Now more than ever, we need to cooperate instead of compete. Share instead of take. Kindness over ruthlessness. Cheer for each other instead of harboring jealousy. Equality over discrimination.
Mercado Publico aka Public Market
If you’re ever in Porto Alegre, this public market is a must go. Amongst the dealers and wheelers of cheeses, wines, cutlery — most of which is finely crafted from locals, mind you — you’ll find three dedicated erva shops: Banco2, Casa do Erva-Mate, and Gaucho Rancho. All have a wide selection of erva sold by the kilo, prepacked ervas, bombas, cuias, knives, all sorts of erva-related handcrafted items of the highest quality.
We commissioned a few pieces from these talented vendors. In fact, this is where I honed my skills to prepare erva, as I was repeatedly shown step-by-step instructions on how to make the perfect erva. Check this video below to see it in action:
I’m deep in The Erva Zone
I’m still an Argentine mate boy at heart and will always be! But after being in Porto Alegre all this time, I’ve unlocked a new appreciation for erva mate, aka chimarrão. There’s really nothing else like it.
Once you learn how to properly make it, you then learn how to enjoy it. These two go hand-in-hand. And I’m not afraid to admit, after so many years stumbling around trying to make erva back in New York, I still didn’t truly know the ins-and-outs of how to prepare erva.
And let me tell you, preparing erva make preparing yerba look like childsplay. Utterly different methods involved. It’s tricky business!
But it all comes down to extra patience when allowing the water to sit and then carefully molding it back to shape the waterhole. And, dare I say, this can only only only be done with a proper Brazilian cuia and bomba (a bombilla with an incredibly high filter-count) — and if you’re really in the know, you’ll also have a Mate Shaper on hand for fine tuning the erva.
I had these tools back home, but never deployed them like I am these days. I’m in the Erva Zone. And this new zone was the inspiration for the new collection. See all the goodies I’m bringing back for you…. See those beautiful cuias right there! We had them handcrafted just for Circle of Drink by local Artisans.
Phhhewwww…. they’re out of this world! I’m super excited about these pieces. Every day I wake up and grab one of these buttery-smooth cuias that hold a ton of erva, and I joyfully prepare a ginormous gourd of malty deliciousness.
Expect them to hit our shop in early July. Get one while you can. This may be one of those one-off collections never to be seen again a la Quantum Cups that only make a rare appearance every few years or so.
Next week I’m heading north to Curitiba in the State of Paraná. Did you know that there’re only 3 states in the entire Brazil (out of 26), where traditional erva mate is regularly consumed? Yup, only the Southernmost three states:
- State of Paraná (Curitiba is the capital)
- State of Rio Grande do Sul (where I currently reside in Porto Alegre)
- State of Santa Catarina
While there, I’ll learn the ways of the Gauchos of the region. We’re also working on a new line of Circle of Drink Organic Mate produced in the State. This will become our first truly “exportable” pack of mate.
Many of the larger mate companies produce specifically designed packs that travel well and can easily be shipped in large quantities across the globe. And though we currently sell our handcrafted yerba to more than 30 countries, this move will allow us to expand our reach with a truly amazing traditional erva packaged at the source and ready for global deployment.
It won’t be our super-duper premium hand-blended mate that we craft in New York on the spot, but it’ll be incredible all the same and at a price point that’ll make it more accessible to mate drinkers across the globe.
The ideas are really flowing out here! Could it be the erva?
That’s a wrap, Folks!
Ok, I think it’s time to make a fresh erva or order from Uber Eats for, like, the 10th consecutive day? I really need to get back to home cooking but I’m addicted to this french fettuccine alfredo with sirloin.. It’s insane. What in the world do they put in the sauce?
Anywhooo, if you made it this far, thanks for listening to what I had to share. You have my gratitude. It hasn’t been all rainbows and sunshine, but, nevertheless there has been light, levity, and rich ideas bubbling to the surface.
I hope you, too, have been able to sieve some golden nuggets from this less than pristine moment in time. Remember, it’s your time and your time only, so make the most of it.