If you visit Buenos Aires or any other city in Argentina, you might see couple on the street sharing a container of some kind of liquid, old lady in a café too and wander what is it? It is called mate, and everyone in the country drinks it. Special cups are made for that, they are wooden and engraved, can also be made of metal, small or big. Let’s look why everyone is obsessed with this beloved magic liquid.
It is a traditional drink for people from Uruquay, parts of Chile, Brazil, Paraquay and Bolivia; of course, let’s not forget Argentina. Mate has more caffeine than coffee and it is made like tea, from dried leaves. Plant from which leaves are taken is called yerba. They are chopped and grounded into a powder. Pour hot water on it and enjoy through metal straw, traditionally it needs to be silver. That straw has its name and in Argentina it is called Bombilla. Name may vary depending in which country you are in. Bombilla acts as a sort of sieve too. People carry huge thermo flasks with them because this drink needs to be consumed while hot. Water can be refilled on the same powder couple times, because it has a strong consistency.
How to prepare Mate properly
First, fill the container more than a half with yerba powder. Place your hand on top and give a good shake to it just to make sure that more powdery leaves are going to be on the top. Then, turn it on the side and shake it again. Place the bombilla in the empty space and bring it to the wall of the container, trying not to stir the yerba too hard. Add a little bit of cold water, just try to leave the top of powder dry, wait until the water is absorbed. Finally, it is time for hot water, it should be about eighty degrees. Now you can drink! Sip it from the straw, just don’t jiggle it around, it will clog the bombilla and you will have to taste powder not the drink – it is not pleasant. After that, if you are the first one to make and drink it, refill the container with hot water and pass it on keeping the same straw. The yerba will keep the taste for 10 refills. When you say thanks, that means that you do not want any mate served to you.
Mate is not just a cup of tea; you cannot drink it just for a cozy evening. It is whole ritual, especially for Argentinians. Usually it is drunk on gatherings and social events. Container and bombilla is shared. One person is given a title of Cebador, which means the server. Cebador needs to drink first, otherwise it will be viewed as bad manners. Some people like to add sweeteners like sugar or honey, but it is done mostly in Brazil. Others like to have a little bit of orange or citrus peel, while some prefer to go a little crazy and add coffee.