Welcome to Tea. Toast. & Trivia.
This is the third podcast of the series called, “It’s all about tea.”
So put the kettle on and join me in discussing the mysteries and adventures of tea: their origins, myths, aromas and delicious tastes. Today, we are heading to Brazil to meet up with the Mário de Andrade, Brazilian poet, novelist, musicologist, art historian, photographer and one of the founders of Brazilian modernism
My name is Rebecca Budd and I’m looking forward to sharing this moment with you.
*Sound of Boiling Water*
The sound you heard was water boiling. I am making a cup of Yerba Mate, a delicious infusion popular in Brazil that is made with the leaves of the native Yerba Mate plant. Yerba Mate has a slightly smoky, even bitter flavour that some suggest tastes like a cross between green tea and coffee. Full of vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants, this is a tea that devotees promise will add vibrancy and an energy boost to your day. Did I mention that this tea has caffeine?
Yerba Mate is versatile – you can drink it hot or cold, with or without milk or sugar. Some tea experts maintain that Yerba Mate tea can be easily mixed with other herbs and spices. In Brazil, Yerba Mate is served in a hollow gourd with milk and a sweetener. This is a tradition that continues from indigenous cultures. Which is why Yerba Mate is a perfect pairing for my encounter with the Brazilian poet, Mário de Andrade. During his lifetime, he amassed vast amounts of information about Brazilian life and folklore.
*Sound of pouring tea*
That was the sound of pouring my tea.
I am not drinking the tea from a gourd but that does not diminish my enjoyment. It is a distinct, unforgettable flavour, one that I will come to again and again. Just as I will to the poetry of Mário de Andrade.
Born on October 9, 1893, Mário de Andrade chose to live all 51 years of his life in the moment, surrounded by beauty, art, poetry. A passionate poet, novelist, musicologist, art historian, and photographer, his journey was not for the faint of heart. As a child, he was a piano prodigy and thought that the piano would be his life’s work. He studied at the Music and Drama Conservatory of São Paulo. Tragedy came when he was twenty. His 14-year-old brother, Renato, died suddenly during a football game in 1913. It was a period a deep grieving. He returned to live with his family in the city Araraquara, a three-hour drive from São Paulo. He eventually graduated in 1917 with a degree in piano but was unable to give concerts. His hands, which had been steady as a child, trembled intermittently.
Life moves on and so did Mário de Andrade – to singing, writing, art and poetry. He published his first book the year of his graduation under the pseudonym, Mário Sobra. Although the book received little attention, it was the beginning of his exploration and a growing sense of a distinctive Brazilian identity, of an abiding love for his country and the diversity of culture.
Shortly after graduation and the publishing of his first book, Mário de Andrade left São Paulo for the countryside. This was the genesis of the meticulous documentation of the history, people, culture, and particularly music of the Brazilian interior, both in the state of São Paulo and in the wilder areas to the northeast. His pioneering efforts in the field of ethnomusicology went beyond the borders of Brazil. He embraced the breadth and depth of music within its social and cultural settings.
He wrote poetry throughout his musical education but did not think to do so professionally until the career as a professional pianist came to a standstill.
In 1928, Mário de Andrade published his great novel, Macunaíma, which I have yet to read because I have not located a English translation. Macunaíma, “a hero without a character,” born in the Brazilian jungle and possessing strange and remarkable abilities, travels to São Paulo.
Mário de Andrade is considered Brazil’s national polymath. As a member of the avant-garde “Group of Five, he was the central figure in São Paulo avant-garde movement, reshaping both literature and visual arts in Brazil. There were strained moments in his relationship with the Brazilian government over the years, but at the end of his life, he became the founding director of São Paulo’s Department of Culture.
On February 25, 1945, Mário de Andrade died of a heart attack in his home.
A few months ago, my mother, Frances, sent me a poem by Mário de Andrade, which she had received from a friend, who had received it from another friend and another friend and another. Without question, the poem passed through many inboxes on its way to mine. It is called The Valuable Time of Maturity. Even after all the years, Mário de Andrade poetry continues to resonate, far away from his home in Brazil.
The Valuable Time of Maturity
I counted my years and discovered that I have
less time to live going forward than I have lived until now.
I have more past than future.
I feel like the boy who received a bowl of candies.
The first ones, he ate ungracious,
but when he realized there were only a few left,
he began to taste them deeply.
I do not have time to deal with mediocrity.
I do not want to be in meetings where parade inflamed egos.
I am bothered by the envious, who seek to discredit
the most able, to usurp their places,
coveting their seats, talent, achievements and luck.
I do not have time for endless conversations,
useless to discuss about the lives of others
who are not part of mine.
I do not have time to manage sensitivities of people
who despite their chronological age, are immature.
I cannot stand the result that generates
from those struggling for power.
People do not discuss content, only the labels.
My time has become scarce to discuss labels,
I want the essence, my soul is in a hurry…
Not many candies in the bowl…
I want to live close to human people,
very human, who laugh of their own stumbles,
and away from those turned smug and overconfident
with their triumphs,
away from those filled with self-importance,
Who does not run away from their responsibilities ..
Who defends human dignity.
And who only want to walk on the side of truth
The essential is what makes
I want to surround myself with people,
who knows how to touch the hearts of people ….
People to whom the hard knocks of life,
taught them to grow with softness in their soul.
Yes …. I am in a hurry … to live with intensity,
that only maturity can bring.
I intend not to waste any part of the goodies
I have left …
I’m sure they will be more exquisite,
that most of which so far I’ve eaten.
My goal is to arrive to the end satisfied and in peace
with my loved ones and my conscience.
I hope that your goal is the same,
because either way you will get there too .. ”
Mário de Andrade
Thank you for joining me on Tea Toast and Trivia.
May we be in a hurry … to live with intensity, that only maturity can bring. Let’s not waste any part of the candies that we have left.
Until next time, safe travels.