Mate (pronounced as latte) is more than just a drink. It's Argentina's national infusion! It's also consumed in Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil (it originated in these last two countries). It is also consumed in Syria, the largest importer in the world, and in Lebanon! I didn't know that until today!

The Argentine gauchos (commonly used to describe the old residents of the South American pampas, chacos, or Patagonian grasslands), continued the tradition of drinking mate or terere (the cold version) during their breaks and after a long day of work.

There is a very specific way to prepare the mate, but that doesn't mean we all do it properly. You have to steep hot water into the mate full with yerba, but the steeping has to be slow, not getting all the yerba wet, but only a portion of it, to keep the yerba fresh and tasting strong. 

Now this is not just a loose leaf tea. Mate is a ritual, a ceremony. You may drink it alone but mate always tastes better among friends and loved ones. Even strangers, because mate gathers people. Yes, we share the same straw with strangers without even thinking about herpes. We actually don't even consider herpes, that is something I learned from an American tv show! People in th US tend to be very neat and germophobics so I don't think they would ever share a mate! But we do, without thinking. 

Sharing a mate makes everything better. You can call up a friend for the heck of it and ask: "Want to come home for a few mates?" Well of course, if you can, you go to your friends house, whose kettle is already on waiting for you to start this ritual with him/her and talking about life.

In this common ceremony, the host usually assumes the role of the server, called cebador, and it's good manners for him to drink the first mate, because it can be too cold or too strong, so he/she tests it for his friends. 

We spend a lot of time drinking mate among friends, maybe that's why our conversations go deeper than just the surface, we touch into aspects of our life that go beyond "what did you do last weekend?". Sometimes we go into politics, religion, what's going on inside our souls. We don't judge each other, we listen, we try to understand each other. That's what mate does. NO! It's not an opiate, you may think! Hahaha!

My friend Juan

In fact, yerba mate is totally safe to consume and it even has lots of vintamins and minerals like vitamin A, B1, B2, C, E, as well as phosphorus, iron and calcium. Other studies suggest that mate has significant cancer-fighting activity, due to its high level of anti-oxidants! It also has antomicrobial and anti-fubgal properties and cardio protective effects, meaning it decreases the risk for cardiovascular diseases! Let's all drink mate now!

So, do you want to come over and drink some mates with me?

1 comment:

Sarah Gonzales said...

Thanks for posting about mates, I love this cultural stuff! So fascinating! Interesting how they don't come in typical cups or use typical straws either. I want a mate now.