What is Mate in Argentina and how is it made?
Have you ever wondered what the strange-looking drink that Lionel Messi swears by actually is?
Many sports stars in Argentina and locals alike love this herbal tea.
After traveling here, it turns out, there are many people in Europe and North America who have never heard of Mate (pronounced Mah-Tey).
What is Mate in Argentina?
In this informative article about Argentinean culture we are going to talk about Argentinean Mate and why is so great!
Not only that, though, this article will even give you instructions on how to make some for yourself at home!
Just so that you know, there are multiple names such as Yerba Mate and Cimarron, but we’ll be sticking with just “Mate”.
What is the ritual of drinking mate?
A custom that dates back centuries along with the origins of indigenous South American peoples.
The basis of the ritual is for a group to enjoy this tasty drink.
Believe it or not, though, there are a lot of unwritten rules that are considered rude to break. After all, this is a cultural ceremony.
Here’s a basic basic rundown:
- Participants sit in a circle.
- The Mate is served in a gourd with very hot water.
- The Mate is passed from person to person, sipping until it has run out.
- The process keeps going until there’s no hot water left.
- Only say thanks once you’ve finished, never during or before drinking.
- Never touch the bombilla (straw) except with your lips when drinking.
If you want to give it a try you can order your Mate here and enjoy this stimulating drink in the comfort of your own home.
Why do Argentines drink mate?
The Mate leaves contain caffeine and other natural stimulants, so you could say that it acts as a ceremonial coffee in South America.
It is said to increase concentration, boost energy, and even help with weight control.
Did you ever notice how some Argentineans are quite skinny considering how much red meat and ice cream they eat?
Drinking Mate seems to be the answer to their lack of weight gain!
Argentineans and other South Americans including (Uruguayans and Paraguayans) can potentially drink mate all day long.
It can be seen at family gatherings, afternoon tea-style hangouts, and friendly get-togethers. It may be subtle or overtly expressed, but the gatherings all revolve around the passing of mate.
Couples take mate to the park for a romantic date (maybe as an aphrodisiac). You may even see a group of Argentineans sitting on the beach with thermoses of hot water, passing around a Gourd.
Come to think of it, where are the health benefits of coffee and breakfast tea?
Yet you still drink it? Pfft, you may even drink red bull as a stimulant.
As much as I love coffee and after spending a month exploring Colombia’s Coffee region I usually try to limit my caffeine intake.
Whereas with Mate, it’s like the perfect blend of useful and helpful, so it’s easy to see why it’s such a hit.
When is it Common to drink mate?
Mate not only tastes great, but it’s also a social beverage that is best enjoyed with the company of others.
If you take part in a ritual, there’s just one gourd and one person who pours. Although it is always viewed as a social drink for the benefit of a traditional ritual, it has been used in other settings outside of this.
You will often see Argentinian football stars such as Sergio Aguero or Lionel Messi pictured with a gourd of Mate on a plane or at home.
This is due to the newfound trend of using Mate as a supplement rather than a ritual.
Many football players from South America who live in Europe influence non-Argentinians such as England star Dele Alli to include Mate into their routine.
How To make Mate?
Here are the key steps to making Mate, which is available on Amazon if you find yourself outside of South America.
It is worth noting that Mate can be much cheaper than many Asian teas and with even more health benefits:
Follow these steps to make yourself a Mate:
- Step 1: Heat the water to between 70 and 80 celsius. Never boil the water, it loses flavour.
- Step 2: Fill the Gourd three-quarters full with Mate and shake, making sure none of the leaves stick.
- Step 3: Tilting the Gourd about 45 degrees, pour in the water little by little in a slow manner.
- Step 4: Let the water and Mate combine for a second. Leave for just a couple of seconds.
- Step 5: Insert the bombilla, pinching the end of the mouthpiece so no Mate gets stuck at the end.
- Step 6: Keep pouring in the water bit by bit and let it brew.
For many newcomers, the process may seem overly technical, or longwinded. However, you follow the steps until it becomes second nature because you don’t want to get it wrong!
The more water you use in the ritual, the more distinct the flavor of the Mate. Pick up an authentic Gourd and prepare Mate at home.
As a caffeine-rich drink, it is a stimulant. Quite similar to tea or coffee, it is believed to increase focus and improve mood, while also helping to promote better sleep.
This is interesting since many would consider caffeine and stimulant-heavy drink such as coffee to be a hindrance to sleep.
With Mate, however, it’s a different story.
Due to the polyphenol antioxidants contained in the drink, it is also understood to be a useful dietary addition for those who wish to lose weight – similar to green tea.
The drink also contains vitamins B and C, which are important for metabolism and the immune system.
Many newcomers to the drinking of Mate have found it beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is Mate in Argentina?
Hopefully, this helpful guide has convinced you as to why Mate is such a great alternative to coffee or breakfast tea.
There are so many benefits to it, and you can’t help but wonder whether you’ll be as skillful as Messi once you’ve taken part in a ritual.
Although it can be made from home, booking a trip to Argentina and learning the culture of Mate first hand is the best way to try it.
See this practical guide on Planning a trip to Argentina for more ideas on what to do and where to go when you arrive here!
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