Palo Alto — 3.90 of 5 palos — reviewed 5/18/2012
Type: Traditional, Aged 3 years
Region: Paraguay, Paso Yobai District
Gourd Type Used: Ceramic
Now here’s an interesting mate. Grown in Paso Yobi, Paraguay, a place well-known for its yerba production, with about 20,000 acres under active cultivation, down from nearly 25,000 as recent gold mining has begun to displace the mate production; most recently, with a Canadian company purchasing plenty of land in 2007 to expand mining operations. This has caused alarm, especially with small farmers, as to the future of this sacred place. Another hazard of this region is the mercury that’s used to extract the gold, which has entered the streams and led to contamination; this may pose a threat for the survival of healthy, clean yerba production.
I’ve never tasted a mate quite like this. Could it be the heavily- laden golden soil that imparts such an imperial taste upon this yerba? It tastes exquisite and regal, with subtle hints and textures that I haven’t quite experienced before. This being my first traditional Paraguayan mate to try out, I’m truly impressed with the wide and deep array of taste profiles.
Palo Alto yerba mate remarkably takes your taste buds down a labyrinthian journey of twists and turns, through tobacco fields, smoked hickory bbq, and velvety dipped chocolate raspberries, to the darker cacao, rich chocolate, earthy, dank, malty, and stouty regions of your palate. Perhaps aging yerba for several years really does smooth-out and develop its taste; a practice that is generally not seen in Argentina and Brazil, with aging periods usually never exceeding 12-18 months. Here we see yerba that’s been developing like a sleeping monster, ready to be free in your gourd, for not 1, not 2, but 3 full years. Like wine or whisky, we can now see that yerba does become more refined with age as well. Palo Alto proves this.
Cut 4.25 palos
Paraguayan cut. Excellent combination of medium-sized palos; good polvo count; good pulverized palos; good interplay of medium to finely ground leaves. I really like the Paraguayan cut; it’s unique and really separates itself from the fine Gaucho cut and the more, broadleaf and less polvo Argentinan cut. Palo Alto contains aspects of every cut, which is typical of the Paraguayan yerba production.
Body/Texture/Taste 3.85 palos
Medium body. Multidimensional tastes with intricately unfolding and enfolding flavors. Starting out a bit sour and puckery, which can be a mildly off-putting, but things are quickly harmonized with a gaucho-esque release of strength and backbone, offering excellent structure. This yerba is unique in that it has a gaucho as well as a mellow-Argentinian face to it. It’s earthy and green tasting, yet maintaining robustness and dark chocolate. There are hints of tobacco, smoked hickory, chocolate dipped cherries. Think Mallomars: the graham cracker with a marshmallow inside, covered in dark chocolate. Once you get used to the sour opening, then this yerba is smooth sailing.
Nose 3.85 palos
Marshmallow smores. Sweet. Tobacco. Vibrant, lively, and peppy. Woody. Sawdust. Oaky.
Finish 3.75 palos
I love how this mate begins to become lavado; not so much turning into a green tea (“green-teaing”), but more of a black tea—”black-teaing,” one could say. The finish still contains some of that sourness that’s lost durning the middle, but it sort of becomes your friend and you get used to it. I’m beginning the like and appreciate the sour tones of this yerba—sort of a lemon sour candy sitting on your mouth. Remember sourheads candy?
Cycle 3.90 palos
Good, strong, prevailing cycle. I generally determine cycle length based upon how the flavor lasts during a 1 liter thermos. This mate, now down to my last several ounces of water, is still holding up well. It’s pleasantly lavado, still containing subtle tastes and more of a milk chocolate component. There’s some faint licorice and twizzler candy hints. Slight touch of fruit punch and washed Gatorade.
Overall: 3.90 palos
This yerba kicks butt! It’s tasty; complex, yet simple; has a kaleidoscopic taste profile that’ll take you on a journey. If you have the audacity to try this sour, but sleek yerba, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. This traditional Paraguayan cut, in and of itself, is something to familiarize yourself with—for those serious students of mate out there. I’m shocked how understated Paraguayan yerbas have been—you don’t hear too much about them; sort of swept under the rug, if you will. Well flip that rug over and experience this jewel of a mate. I highly recommend you fire up your kettle and throw some Palo Alto in your gourd. This yerba is perfectly suited for friends as well as alone time, in contemplation.