Traditional mate gourd
So you finally made it to Buenos Aires, and you want to fit in among us, huh? While you may have brushed up on your wine tasting, cuts of beef and a few Spanish phrases, what you really need to learn is what mate is, and how to drink it!
See, while we definitely produce plenty of wine, this is what we really drink on a daily basis. I guess you can say it’s like tea, since it’s made from Yerba Mate tree leaves. But we like to think of it as something special, and our very own (although of course one may debate that its origins stem from Paraguay or Uruguay as well, but we’ll never agree to such nonsense).
A little bit of mate in your everyday diet will wake you up, lessen your appetite a bit (which is a good thing considering the copious amounts of red meat cheaply available here), and the doctors even say it is good for your blood pressure, immune system and pretty much every other part of your body.
Ready to join us?
Seven Dont’s of Drinking Mate
1. Don’t be Selfish: Sure, we all crave our mate in a pinch when we’re looking for some energy to get moving. But mate is really about sharing time with those we love to be around. We may even argue that the health benefits of some healthy camaraderie and conversation are just as real as whatever those doctors say mate helps with.
2. Don’t be Polite: Kidding, of course! But really, while your inclination may be to thank the server upon receiving your fill, in our culture, saying “gracias” means that you will be having your last pour of the session. So make sure you don’t thank the server until you’re ready to check out.
3. Don’t Touch the Straw: As you can see in the picture, mate is served with a straw-like device called a bombilla. Since the server is responsible for the flavor of the mate and will deliver it to the best of his or her ability, you may be offending someone by messing with it.
4. Don’t Ask for Sugar: While some parts of South America serve their mate with sugar (“dulce”), you probably don’t want to ask unless it’s offered. If you find the mate bitter at first, it will become a bit more mild as it is passed around. Hang in there.
5. Don’t be Reckless: You should be able to feel how hot the gourd is before you drink it. Just make sure to be cautious at first, as it may be scorching hot. Drink with caution!
6. Don’t Jump Right In: If you want to become a real mate drinker and buy your own gourd, don’t drink from it immediately. The first time you use yours, fill it will yerba leaves and pour in hot water. Leave it for a day, then rinse it out and you should be good to go.
7. Don’t Clean It with Soap: And for goodness’ sake, never use soap to clean your gourd! You’ll forever ruin the flavor. Unless you plan on spitting up all over it (which you shouldn’t), just rinse after each use and have another round!