cheap yerba mate in nyc?
It's so funny, I was just drinking some yerba mate, while I was reading your post. I know this is a Manhattan board, and I live in Manhattan, however I've got to tell you that the best places to find a great variety of mate brands for ridiculously cheap prices is in Queens, in the Jackson Heights area actually. It's where I buy my mate because last year, I was on the same yerba mate quest as you.
Here are places to go:
90-09 Roosevelt Avenue (at Elmhurst Avenue), not even a block from the 90th Street-Elmhurst Avenue stop on the 7 train. You can see it once you get off the train.
85-17 37th Avenue (between 85th St & 86th St.) Take the 7 train to the 82nd Street-Jackson Heights stop. it's 5 blocks from the train, easy to find, just mapquest it.
El Hornero Bakery
96-08 Roosevelt Avenue (at Junction Blvd) You'll see it on the corner when you get off the 7 train to the Junction Blvd stop.
Most, if not all of these places sell the mate gourds and bombillas too.
Are these places uruguayan or argentine by any chance? It be nice to have some of my favorite treats all year round instead of relying on family and relatives who travel often to Argentina. Specifically, I would be looking for alfajore maybe some titas and rhodesias etc...Maybe some conaprole dulce de leche.
All of the places I listed carry Argentina products. I can't remember all of the brand names off hand. Don Francisco, I believe, when I went had run out of the Argentine alfajores and sold me an Uruguayan brand. He had lots of different brands of dulce de leche. I would probably go there first. For great tapas for making empanadas go to Baires. All three of the locations listed sell many different brands of yerba mate. You can walk to all three of these places easily in an hour - not even that long. They're very close to each other. Just print out a map and they're surprisingly easy to find. Good luck!
Thank you so much to Hellskitchenette for posting this list. I did some adventurin' this weekend to quest for the elusive Mate. I went, with hellskitchenette's list in hand. I had previously not been to Jackson Heights, so this was an adventure on its own. It is like getting off the subway in Mexico City or somewhere in South America. I knew I had hit the jackpot.
The street vendors sell interesting foods, but mostly meat based, so I didn't indulge. Many foods I had never seen before, such as something that looked like a type of corn with very large kernels.
Anyways, back to the subject. I went to Don Francisco first, as it sounded the most recommended. Turns out it is closed up for some type of renovations. I would call first if you are heading out to see if it is reopened yet. I went by Baires, and looked in the window. It definitely had Mate, but didn't have a large selection, so I figured I'd try my luck at El Hornero. They had a VERY small selection, but had the vital brands. It was nice to not be overwhelmed with choices. It appeared that they just had the "recommended" options. 2 types of "Suave" which I was told to look for (the one I chose was Union brand), as well as Rosamonte Especial edition and of course Cruz de Malta. They had a variety in tea bags as well if you didn't want the loose stuff.
My only wish is that they had more "paraphernalia". They had a cup full of metal Bombilla, and one or two gourds. I would have liked a larger selection of Bombilla, as I have seen varieties on the internet that are really beautiful and artisan created, and some made out of plastic and easier to clean by being separtable (sic). They had the simple metal variety with brass mouth piece.
I certainly can NOT complain about the price. I was drinking the Guayaki stuff from Fairway at about $7.50 for 1/2lb (or .23kg). I walked out of Hornero with:
1KG Suave Union
1KG Rosamonte Especial (keep in mind this is the "fancy" one to serve to guests in Argentina on special occasions!)
1KG Cruz De Malta
1 Metal and brass Bombilla
Total: $18. Finally, one time the weak US dollar hasn't upset me!!
I now have Mate to keep me happy for at least a year or 2. The only problem is I want to bust them all open and try them, but I don't want them to get stale, so I have to work on 1 bag at a time :-(
So, thanks again hellskitchenette, for both giving me the pointers as well as giving me a new destination to explore. Also, if you head out there, make sure to stop in at Sripraphai. It is also (fairly) walkable if you are adventuring, and supposed to be the best Thai in Nyc.
I'd also like to thank hellskitchenette for providing a starting point. In the three years since her post, the site of Don Francisco is now a botanica although I think they might have moved to Junction Blvd. (7 train to Junction Blvd.). The other places are there but don't have a big selection. However, one of the bakeries I visited suggested that I backtrack to Junction Blvd. and Corona Ave. in Elmhurst--excellent advice!
I took the Q72 bus at 40th Rd. and Junction Blvd. to Corona Ave. (a long walk but a short ride). My first stop was La Esquina Criolla (94-67 Corona Ave., mentioned elsewhere on Chowhound). I didn't buy anything to eat but I did find a really nice Palo Santo wood mate and an inexpensive bombilla (total: $17). However, I really hit pay dirt when I visited (having discovered that all of the supermarkets on my trek along 37th Ave. carried yerba mate) the C-Town at 94-53 Corona Ave. Between two-thirds and three-quarters of one side of Aisle 5 was dedicated to yerba mate and in fact, I picked up three of the brands I was looking for: Nobleza Gaucha "Seleccionada" Premium--$2.99, La Mercad de campo--$3.29, and La Tranquera--$3.59 (the first two are half-kilos). They had many varieties of Cruz de Malta (except the especial I wanted), Rosamonte, Sara, and Unión, and they also had Romance and too many other brands to list. The also had blends with guarana and herbs as well as tea bags. The bags are arranged by country and include varieties from Uruguay and Paraguay, although most were from Argentina. No Amanda, Playadito, or Mañanita (anywhere) which are also on my to-try list, but the fact that I found three of seven was pretty good. None of the small-farm organics, either.
The downside was trying to pick up the Q72 to return to Junction Blvd. I was told by other would-be passengers that it's the worst line in Queens; I believe it. Other than that, it might be worth your while to make the trip, especially if you want to sample food while you're in the area. I managed to stock up on my favorite drinking chocolate, too.
I used to live in Inwood, and regularly bought Cruz de Malta brand at the International Fine Fare (look for the colossal chicken on the roof if you're lost) on Broadway at 200th, and at the C-Town on Broadway at 207th. Take the 1 to either the Dyckman or 207th st. stop, or the A to 200th or 207th st. stop. No bombillas, no other Argentine cositas (this is primarily a Dominican hood, which sheds no light on the miracle here). Either way it's not a long stroll between stores, and the area is great. Buen viaje, y disfrute!