Mate is one of the oldest traditions in Argentina that brings friends, family and coworkers together for a few moments to relax and enjoy great conversation and laughs with each other.
When you travel to Mendoza, you will notice that most people drink a particular kind of tea from a small open cup that has a special straw, and often drink this sitting in a circle with their friends and family, passing it from person to person. What they're drinking is mate. It is one of the oldest traditions in Argentina that brings friends, family and coworkers together.
Known as yerba mate (mate herb), Mate is a plant that is found in the region of northeastern Argentina and the neighboring countries. The plant is picked, dried and ready to be enjoyed.
Mate is known for giving you energy, and that is why many people enjoy mate with their breakfast, while working, or in the late afternoons after a siesta (afternoon nap). It has a bitter and acquired taste, which is why many people will add sugar to sweeten it to make it more enjoyable.
The mate consists of three main parts. First, the mate itself is made out of a small gourd or cup. Second, the bombilla is a metal straw with a filter on the bottom so that no mate passes through the straw when sipped. And last but not least, the mate herb itself.
The passing of mate is a ritual that is the same no matter where you go. The person who prepares the Mate is known as the sebador, and is in charge of filling the mate with the herb and pouring the water into the mate. The mate is then returned to the sebador so that they can repeat the process for each person. Just make sure you do not thank the sebador until you no longer wish to continue drinking. This sharing of one drink is a common practice in Argentina; it resembles a symbol of friendship.
There are many ways to enjoy Mate. You may either purchase it in its basic of forms Mate sin palo (without stems) or Mate con palo (with stems), or in more complex variety of flavored Mates with real dried peels of oranges, lemons, or grapefruits mixed in.
After deciding which Mate you’d like to enjoy, there are a variety of ways to enjoy the drink itself. There’s traditional Mate, which is brewed in hot but not boiling water. Mate cocido, which are tea bags of Mate that are then steeped in hot water just like that of tea. Mate cocido con leche, which is the same but with a splash of milk (pairs great with breakfast). A truly Mendocino way to enjoy Mate is Tereré, which is the same concept but rather than using hot water, you brew the Mate in ice water, juice or soda such as grapefruit, lemon, orange or pear. Known by students who need to study all night, an unconventional way to have Mate is Mate con café (Mate with coffee). And of course there’s no better way to enjoy Mate than with facturas (small sweet pastries).
Mate can be purchased at almost every convenience store (called a Kiosko) supermarket or corner store. They also make great souvenirs and can be purchased at many markets, artisan or gift shops.