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 bombillassteel 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.

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