On the beaches of Rio de Janeiro (specifically the infamous Copacabana), a man or woman passes you every minute or so selling something: a hand-dyed wrap to put between your skin and the burning sand, a popsicle, a refreshing beverage. They offer Coca-Colas, coconut juice boxes, whole coconuts with straws, Sprites, water bottles—the list goes on. But the beach bum favorite, hands down, is Matte Leão.
Matte Leão (pronounced “mah-cheh lay-ow”—don’t forget to say the “ow” syllable through your nose, indicated by the tilde above the ‘a’) is Brazilians’ favorite way to keep from melting on a hot day, at least in Rio. This iced tea is made from the same yerba mate popular among Argentineans and throughout the rest of South America, but Brazilians do it differently.
The flavor is similar to American iced tea, instead of the bitter taste of steeped Argentinean yerba mate. Sugary sweet enough that one sip fills your mouth with flavor, Matte Leão has the consistency of water, rather than the thick, syrupy feel of soda. The easiest flavors to find are the Original and Diet, but Lime, Peach, and Apple aren’t too hard to dig up.
The best part? The caffeinated beverage comes in a little 300ml cup with a peel-back lid (like a yogurt top) that you can open only part of the way to keep sand out of your drink while you lie on the beach. Unlike a glass with ice and liquid, it’s easily transported all over town while you run your errands.
[Before you play the video below, remember: This is Brazil! The U.S. would rate this ad PG-13.]
The bad news? The drink is only available in Brazil. But because the Coca-Cola Company just acquired Leão Junior, the company that produces Matte Leão, we’re crossing our fingers that we’ll find it on shelves soon in the U.S. If you can’t wait (or if you live in a cold climate, like us), latinmerchant.com and brazilshop.com sell Matte Leão tea bags for a hot version.
–Tara for TKGO