There are three certainties in an Argentinian life: having great barbecues, enjoying a Malbec wine, and drinking Yerba Maté with friends and family.
If you’re not really familiar with the Argentinian culture, then sharing some maté – oh yes you need to share – will give you the greatest insights into the culture in Buenos Aires.
What is Yerba Maté?
Yerba mate is a tea-like drink that and one of the most popular drinks in Argentina. ‘Yerba’ stands for the herb leaves, ‘mate’ is the drinking cup where the yerba poured in dry, afterward you add water and you drink it through a ‘bombilla’ (filter straw).
The yerba or herb leaves are from the tree ilex paraguarensis. The yerba is made from the leaves and twigs.
How to drink Maté?
Drinking yerba mate is as common in South America as drinking coffee and tea in the rest of the world. Unlike coffee or tea mate is nutritious and full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It contains, among other things, mateine. That is the softer version of caffeine. When it’s cold the mqté is served with hot water. During summer or hot weather the water is often replaced by lemonade. Then it’s called tereré what is popular among children.
Preparing the maté is not just putting the yerba in the cup and drink it. There are some rules for it. First, you fill the maté cup with the yerba. Put your hand on the top of the cup, cover it completely and turn it twice. Afterward, put the bombilla in the maté cup with the dry yerba in it. Pour water near the bombilla until the yerba is saturated. Very important (!) never stir with the bombilla straw. Actually, you never touch the bombilla. Only a little bit to fix it to drink.
The culture behind Maté
One of rules of drinking Maté is to share the cup with your friends and family. Drinking yerba maté is considered a sign of friendship. The sharing of Maté is experienced almost as ritualistic and has its own set of rules. With a traditional mate, there is one person who pours and serves the yerba mate. We call the person the matero.
Usually the matero will take the first drink because it is often quite bitter. Once done, the matero will refill the cup with warm water and serve it to the next friend. You need to drink until there is no water anymore in the cup. Afterward you return it to the matero.
Because the maté can be re-prepared as often as desired, someone may no longer wish to drink. One can then say ‘gracias’ to the host / woman and return the maté.
Drink maté in Buenos Aires
As Argenitians are eager to share their culture, they can ask you to share maté with them. A nice experience. Also, you can easily buy yerba in every supermarket, a maté cup and bombilla are sold often in kiosko’s, supermarkets and gift stores.
Getting hot water is no problem. If you have a thermos, you can ask to any café or place if they have hot water. Mostly it’s for free.
Take the maté to a park nearby with a “factura” or cookie. Enjoy!