Yerba mate, the South American tisane known for its energizing properties and earthy flavor, was not something David Turconi stumbled upon a few years ago. Born and raised in San Francisco in the sixties, David was exposed to teas and herbal remedies early in life, during what he calls “that period of time when everything health conscious was very important.” It wasn’t until recently, however, that the former Mrs. Fields chocolate chip cookie developer and food service professional decided to make mate his calling.
It started when David took over Guayaki Mate’s flagship café in Sebastopol, California. After spending some time serving traditional gourd mate in Northern California’s health-conscious Sonoma County, and watching coffee culture spread from San Francisco outwards, he decided it was time to take mate to a similar level. Along with his wife he is in the process of launching Copas, a café brand aimed at framing mate in a familiar setting, alongside healthful foods and community-based culture. With three mate stands slated to open in the coming year, Copas is poised to elevate mate beyond the ready-to-drink can.
“What we’re planning to do with these places is introduce yerba mate to the public,” says David. “You can get a latte, a mocha, a spicy chocolate, a milkshake, but made with yerba mate. Mate has the strength of coffee, the health benefits of green tea, and some say the euphoria of dark chocolate.”
While David scouts permanent locations (several are pending), he says he is also fielding numerous offers from investors interested in the brand. It’s no wonder, with tea moving into a fruitful third wave, and café culture booming, yerba mate is an untapped avenue. Locations are planned for Berkeley, San Francisco, and Palo Alto. Comedy shows, poetry slams, and locally sourced organic foods will add to a menu of diverse mate drinks and even coffee. “I’m not going to let five dollars walk out the door,” says David.
—Regan Crisp is Fresh Cup’s associate editor.