If you’ve ever visited Argentina, I’m sure you’re already familiar with maté! And even if you have not, you probably know that one calabash gourd, one drinking straw called a bombilla and one thermos make the indispensable daily utensils of the porteños (inhabitants of Buenos Aires)! But what makes this drink so famous and highly appreciated throughout the world? In order to find out, we must embark on a trip to the country of maté! Let’s go with Yerba Mate Taragüi!
What is maté?
First, let’s be clear on the difference between maté and yerba maté. Quite confusingly, maté is the name of both the drink and of the calabash gourd in which the infusion is prepared. Mathi means “container” in Quechua, and it can pretty much be made of anything, from cow’s hoof to wood, like touristy ones. There is something for everyone!
Yerba maté is the plant used to prepare the infusion. It is cultivated in South America, mainly northern Argentina – in the Corrientes and Misiones regions. It has similar properties to coffee, with plenty of health benefits: caffeine, vitamins, antioxidants, good for digestion and suppresses the appetite.
Why do Argentinians drink so much maté? Maté tradition in Argentina can be traced back to the Guarani Indians, who were the first to drink maté between the 15th and 17th centuries, which helped them avoid fatigue and maintain a general good mood.Then, the Jesuits domesticated yerba maté in the Misiones region and began trading it.
Maté tradition was adopted by Spanish conquistadors adopted when they arrived in America. Later, the gauchos started drinking the infusion. Gradually, the whole country started to drink maté.
Today, Argentina exports maté all over the world! In Paraguay or Brazil, maté is delivered directly to your house! Did you know that the third most important maté importer is Syria? Maté seduces everyone!
The homeland of maté is the region of Corrientes to the north of Buenos Aires in Argentina. There, maté is practically a religion, it is part of the culture. The Yerba Maté Route has become a pilgrimage through Argentina an its neighboring countries, passing through unique landscapes. From red soils to the luxurious vegetation of the Amazonian jungle, you’ll get acquainted with each and every step involved in maté production, an authentic experience to say the least!
How to prepare maté
Preparing maté is a form of art! Heat water at 65 degrees Celsius (150 degress Fahrenheit). Don’t leave the water to boil because this makes the maté lose its flavor.
Place the yerba maté at the bottom of the calabash gourd. The powder should occupy three quarters of the gourd. Stick the straw diagonally into the yerba the maté. The bombilla usually has a filter to protect against dust. Pour water inside the gourd. The person who prepares the maté is entitled to the first sip and will serve the drink.
How to drink maté
With other people, of course! Maté sharing is a ritual! In a group, there is one maté and one straw for everyone! After drinking, you must pass the gourd to your left neighbor. You must repeat this several times until showing your hand and saying gracias, which means you don’t want anymore maté. Make sure you don’t say gracias too soon, it could be seen as an insult. The person who prepared the infusion has to refill the gourd when it is finished.
Argentinians spend long hours drinking maté while chatting with friends, so if you wish to become a maté drinker, make sure you have plenty of patience and are ready for some deep relaxation!