Mate (“mah-tay”) is a highly caffeinated herbal tea made from the dried leaves of a kind of holly plant. It has been popular in much of South America since pre-Columbian times, and is the national drink of Argentina (as well as Uruguay and Paraguay). It is traditionally sipped through a metal straw, often from a bulbous cup made from a calabash gourd.
A traditional favorite in this former Soviet Socialist Republic, Byarozavik is birch tree water — that is, a beverage made with the mineral-rich sap of the birch tree, collected every spring. Said to be similar to coconut water in electrolyte and micronutrient content, it’s crisp, with a faint lemony flavor.
Belgium: Lambic beers
Beer has been produced in Belgium since Roman times, in a wide range of styles. What’s unique to Belgium is the class of beers called lambics. Lambic is a wheat beer fermented with wild yeasts found only in the Zenne Valley, not far from Brussels. It’s sold primarily on draught, in or near that city. There are several types of lambic beer: Faro is young lambic; Gueuze is a blend of young and old beers; and Kriek and framboise are lambics macerated with cherries or raspberries, respectively.
Cachaça is a relative of rum, distilled from fermented sugarcane juice (most rum is made from molasses). There are said to be as many as 40,000 producers of cachaça across Brazil. While there are versions aged in barrels made from tropical hardwoods, the bulk of the production is “white” and most popularly consumed mixed with sugar and crushed mint in Brazil’s most famous cocktail, the caipirinha.
“Rakia” is a generic name for dry, clear fruit brandy, distilled from apricots, plums, pears, figs, and other fruit. Though it is produced commercially, it is also often distilled in small quantities at home. Archeological evidence shows that rakia has been consumed in Bulgaria at least since the 14th century.
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