El Almacen: A Cure For My Post-Travel Blues
Thursday, June 17, 2010
I think that I speak for everyone when I say — well, write — that it doesn’t take long for you to want to return to where you just came.
It has been just over a month since my return from South America, and I already miss the idiosyncrasies of the people and culture. At times I find myself saying “che!” instead of “hey!”, or making grandiose gesticulations when I get into a political debate with someone — waving my hands or pinching the air.
However, I find myself fortunate to be in Toronto, a city of such diversity. It helps in the healing process. Since World Cup fever has descended — not just here, but everywhere — living in Little Portugal has been an unforeseen aid in readjustment. If I feel the desire to see old(er) men congregating around tiny televisions over cheap beer, I just walk up and around the streets of my neighborhood.
So it was, the other day, that I decided to go for a long walk, taking in and observing the changes that have occurred since I was last here. I am happy I did so because on Queen Street West, just south of Little Portugal, I found a cafetería specializing in Yerba Maté. I was immediately drawn in.
Inside El Almacen, which roughly translates as “the general store,” there are black-and-white photos of tango dancers and buildings in Buenos Aires. On the bar, a tall, brass espresso machine sits beside glass pedestals filled with alfajores, the Argentine version of an Oreo cookie. Behind the bar, placed up high, are gourds and bombillas — steel straws made for sipping maté.
One of the owners, a man from Mendoza, opened the cafetería just over four months ago in hopes to share the maté drinking culture with Canadians. I decided to put the experience to the test and ordered a maté-in-a-gourd.
It was delicious and oddly familiar. The brand was Taragui, imported directly from Argentina.
Not only do the owners, a married couple, provide the full mate experience, but they also sell the bags of yerba, gourds, bombillas and jars of dulce de leche for all those that need a little Argentina fix.
Warm and welcoming, El Almacen is much more than a mere general store. It is a spot that — at least once in a while when I am crying a little for Argentina — I can sit and sip. It’s one more thing that balances my impulsive travel plans and let’s me readjust a little more seamlessly.
By Brit Weaver
About the Author
Toronto born and based, Brit is an avid leisure cyclist, coffee drinker and under-a-tree park-ist. She often finds herself meandering foreign cities looking for street eats to nibble, trees to climb, a patch of grass to sit on, or a small bookstore to sift through. You can find her musing life on her personal blog, TheBubblesAreDead.wordpress.com.