Santa Barbara, California is gearing up for the Santa Barbara Writers Conference in June 2008. This annual event has attracted an impressive following since its inception in 1973 and more than 400 “wordsmiths” are expected to attend this year. You ask: “What do writers have to do with yerba mate?”
Just this. I have been wondering:Â ”Will theÂ Santa Barbara Writers Conference start a new trend for writers toÂ sip on yerba mate instead of coffee?”Â As writers flock toÂ the ConferenceÂ from all over the country, Santa Barbara is a good place to try yerba mate.
Writers are almost instinctively attracted to yerba mate because of the benefits it bestows. Forget writer’s block! With yerba mate, the distractions of the world just seem to disappear. There are no jitters with this healthy infusion like there are with the traditional “burnt beans” or the latestÂ ”designer latte schmattes.” Instead, there is a sense of peace, calm and well-being; and, then there’s the ever-present intense power of focus and concentration it provides.
I first noticed this effect years ago when I would sit down to write something shortly after a morning mate and breakfastÂ – my best time to write. I would quickly find myself deep in thought, words flowing to my computer, and the next thing I noticed it was 3:00 in the afternoon. I had missed lunch! More truthfully, I didn’t “miss” lunch at all, because I never experienced great pangs of hunger. I just channeled my thoughts into words right through the time period when most people normally ate lunch.
Many other writer types have also noticed this phenomenon. Several authors and bloggers graciously credit yerba mate for allowing them to stay alert and concentrate on their manuscript. Promoter, public speaker and entrepreneur, Tim Ferriss, openly gives kudos to yerba mate forÂ helping him to completeÂ his book The 4-Hour Workweek. He likes the way he can drink his mate and not experience the devastating caffeine crash that comes from coffee.
On the Santa Barbara Community Guide website, John Dickson takes great pride in listing the best coffee shops for writers. Unlike Rio de Janeiro, Santa Barbara doesn’t have mate bars throughout the city; but several of these coffee houses do sell yerba mate by the cup. Well, OK, one of them actually sells it in a glass. Go figure! A few of these Santa Barbara coffee housesÂ are listed in my “By The Cup” Directory.
One of the reasons writers are attracted to coffee shops is the freeÂ wi-fi access to the Internet. This little amenity is a two-edged sword for the coffee shop owner however. On the one hand, it fills seats. On the other hand, if a writer sits alone in a booth or at a table for hours while nursing a single cup of java, the seat is not available for another customer.Â Even aÂ big tip to the server, doesn’t make it work for the owner, who is basically renting the seat for the price of one cup. This is not a good business model.
To accommodate the competing demands of filling seats and selling from the menu, one of the Santa Barbara coffee shops posts a notice advising that their free Internet service is only available from 2:00 p.m. until closing.
I remember a great mate bar in downtownÂ Buenos Aires that sold yerba mate in a gourd with a bombilla and a kettle of hot water. This was a fun place to visit and eat lunch if you were hungry, but they didn’t serve yerba mate at meal times. You had to go backÂ later in the afternoonÂ for your mate.
The June 2008 issue of Writer’s Digest Magazine has a featuredÂ article about “Literary Hot Spots” around the U.S. The authors say that each of the “Lit” cities featured has spotsÂ where serious writers congregate. Surprise! Coffee houses, cafes and taverns are cited as almost half of about 50 places referred to in the story. Most of the other locations mentioned, such as bookstores, libraries and writers’ clubs, alsoÂ boast coffee or some other type of beverage service.
The magazine articleÂ concentrates on just a few cities, but a specialÂ online Writer’s DigestÂ Forum invites readers to name other places where writers like to congregate. Many of the readers’ preferencesÂ are coffee houses.
Â In the coming years, I am sure that more writers will be switching from coffee to yerba mate. It’s an easyÂ transition and thereÂ are no caffeine withdrawal pains from making the switch. Yes,Â because of their need to concentrate and focus, many writers, bloggers andÂ journalistsÂ will begin switching someday and theÂ franchised chains of mate bars will surely follow.
In all probability, Santa Barbara, California will be one of the first U.S. citiesÂ to hopÂ on the new yerba mateÂ bandwagon. Write that down!