Aaah… so the long awaited Yerba Maté (aka Maté) story is finally here. I know it would have been more logical to start out my blog with the story since the blog is called “Mate and Chocolate” after all. But, oh well… I didn’t. And from what I can tell, the world is still rotating on its orbit, the sun is still shining during the day, the moon at night and if you are reading this that means you are still here. Conclusion? Life is good. So.. back to the Maté story.
Now, the first time I drank maté, I was down in Argentina with a group of friends on a mission trip. I was of course going through culture shock and at the same time attempting to assist the group by translating with my very limited Spanish skills, which meant my brain was on overdrive and it hurt. I was also attempting to win the imaginary “best team member to adapt” award by trying everything that I was being offered because I did not want to look like a wimpy, picky American that complained about everything (I really did not want to reinforce that stereotype lol). So on this particular day, there I was, with a group of newly acquired Argentine friends, on a hot February afternoon, under the scorching Argentine sun (it was the summer season) trying to practice for a play that was going to be presented later on that evening. It was hot and humid, we were all dying of thirst so we decided to take a break from practicing. As we sat down, one of the guys pulled out of his bag a weird looking cup (aka “the gourd”), and started to pour some herb-like stuff into it and then he pulled out a metal straw that kind of curved at the top, poured some lemonade into the gourd, inserted the straw and took a long sip. I was like… “oooook? Interesting. Must be cultural.” (duh!) However he did not stop there. He then poured more lemonade into the tea filled gourd and passed the gourd to the guy sitting next to him, who then took a nice long sip and passed it back to the original guy. Ok, now I was like – “Eeeewww!” Well, then it continued because the original guy poured more lemonade into the gourd and then passed it to the 3rd person and now he drank from the same gourd using the same straw!!!! Now I was like, “super eeeewww!!!”
By this time I got the gist and I knew what was coming… and it came! The next thing I know, they all turn to us, the “Americanos” and each one of knew we would be asked to drink from the “friendship” cup. So, in the spirit of adventure and camaraderie, I drank. I drank from the “friendship” cup and it was the most refreshing drink I had ever had. The icy tea ran down my dry sahara-like parched throat, gently irrigating every nook and corner, reviving its senses and bringing it to life. I forgot about the countless lips that had tasted before me. They mattered no more. All I could think of was – Dang! This tea is awesome! And with that one sip on a hot February afternoon, under the Argentine sun, began a friendship, a passionate love affair with maté. I love it hot. I love it cold. I love it with sugar, with honey or with none. It’s definitely a keeper!
Since then, I have learned more about maté other than how to drink it. I have learned that it has great health benefits, (high in antioxidants) I have learned that the Uruguayans beat the Argentines hands down when it comes to how much they drink maté. (My sister and I were in Uruguay and we saw police officers walking down the street with maté bags, ready to drink it at any time) I have learned the common saying about maté and that is – Maté is meant to be shared amongst friends. (I guess that makes sense, given its method of consumption) I like that saying a lot because it is very true. In South America, when friends get together to visit, you will not find them sharing a beer, or wine or pop, you will most likely find them sitting around talking, laughing and sharing maté.
Now, that I live in an area where no one else but I drinks maté, I of course am going against the norm by drinking maté by myself. However, whenever I do have a chance to hang out with my Argentine friends here in the USA, we always end up congregating around the maté.
If you are ever brave enough and decide to try it, you can buy the tea herbs at any Latino food store or you can also check out any Teavana store (they sell the gourd and straw too but they are more expensive.) For more info on the tea Yerba maté, check out http://guayaki.com/mate/130/What-is-Yerba-Mate%3F.html
Here are a few photos and basic instructions on how to prepare and drink maté. As you can see, it does look like you are doing something illegal right? The whole gourd, metal straw and sipping thing… Hahahaha…suspicious lol. I used to get the weirdest looks from people when I would pull it out and drink it in the park or in a public space. It was absolutely hilarious! Ok.. until next time – Saludos! To Maté and Chocolate!
Open bag and pour the tea herbs into the mate (aka gourd). fill it half way.
Slowly add your hot water to the maté,
then insert your straw and slowly sip the water until you have sipped it all up. Pour more hot water into the gourd and sip it again. Repeat as until the tea loses its flavor or gets watered down.
Note: During the summer, maté is prepared with a cold water source like lemonade which is what I had the first time I tried it. However during the other time periods, when the sun is not scorching, it is prepared with hot water, like any other tea.