I have been living in Buenos Aires for 1,6 years now and I still haven’t grown to like mate. I don’t understand the big fuzz around it but I cannot deny how important it is to the people living here. It is truly a big part of Argentine culture. They even have an Insitute of Yerba Mate, according to them 98% of Argentine households have yerba mate in their home!
Mate is a traditional South American infused drink. It has a very high caffeine level so many Argentinians start their days with mate instead of coffee. Some time ago people thought it to have “mateine” instead of caffeine but was proven to be the same caffeine as you can find in tea, coffee and chocolate. Mate is also known for its digestive and purifying powers.
Mate is drunken with a special straw called bombilla which is made of silver, cheaper versions also from nickel silver o stainless steel. It has holes in the end to let the water through but not the yerba itself. Usually you can find ornaments or decorations to make the straw stand out. As mate is a drink to have with friends and family all together, the straw gets shared as well, that part may bother the most new drinkers.
The cup is made from calabash gourd, newer versions also from rubber, plastic or glass. in Argentina they call the cup “mate” like the drink itself.
Mate was first consumed by Guarani people living in nowadays Brazil area which used to belong to Paraguay back then. On 16th century during the European colonization, when Spanish colony was in Paraguay drinking mate started to spread. In the mid 17th century Jesuits managed to domesticate the plant and made their own plantations in Misiones. By the year 1715 mate had spread all the way to Chile and Bolivia. British colonists in Chile took it from there to Europe and it was well accepted. Nowadays you can find mate in all over South America.
How to make mate, step by step:
- 1. You need to have yerba mate, Mate the cup and bombilla.
- Fill the cup half full, place your hand one the cup and shake it. The idea of this is to get the powder off the yerba mate as it makes the drink bitter.
- Insert the bombilla into the cup and fill it with hot water, right temperature for the water is around 80 degrees Celsius (around 180 degrees Fahrenheit). Water level should be just enough to cover the yerba mate.
- Drink through the bombilla, if you want it sweeter then add sugar on your taste.
- When water ends just re-fill with the water and pass the cup around.
- When you feel the yerba mate is loosing its taste just replace the yerba mate and repeat the process.
It is important to know that the first round should be always drunken by the person who prepared it because it is like a quality control to makes sure that the drink is not too strong or bitter and then the next round will be passed around.
You can couple of different kinds of mate:
- Sueve yerba mate – the taste is more mild and less bitter, tea is made from yerba mate leaves plus added branches of the plant
- Yerba mate – only leaves of the yerba mate is used, no other parts of the plant, more bitter and stronger
- Flavoured yerba mate- added flovour like orange, lemon, herbs, grapefruit
- Yerba mate with sugar already included
- Yerba mate in a tea bag
Yerba mate has some health benefits:
- Has a lot of antioxidants which help to prevent cardiovascular diseases because cholesterol and fat won’t accumulate in the arteries
- Helps to fasten metabolism