Thursday, September 9, 2010
The Pleasant Custom of Drinking Mate in Argentina
(Sept. 3, 2010) We departed Tapiz around12:30 and drove south to the Uco Valley passing many vineyards and small towns. During the drive, Gonzalo introduced us to the custom of drinking mate. He filled his mate (small cup made of a gourd with silver rim and a silver straw – see photo) with a dried green substance that looked like tea. Indeed it is similar tasting to green tea, but has a smoky edge and high caffeine.
He filled the cup almost to the top with the green mate mixture, and then poured a small amount (perhaps ¼ cup) of hot water into it. After a minute, he sipped from the silver straw and then passed it to the next person. That person also sipped, and then passed it around the circle. The straw had a small sieve on the bottom that prevented the mate leaves from going in your mouth. It was also refilled every few sips with more hot water.
At first I was a little appalled at the germs we were all sharing, but Gonzalo explained that it was part of the experience, and that drinking mate brought you closer together. He said that Argentineans would say “let’s go get a mate,” as we might say, “let’s go get a coffee.” It is a chance to talk and get to know people better.
The taste was not great, but I can see how it could grow on you. I did enjoy having a hot drink after freezing in the vineyard, and it was a fun experience. We were all given a beautiful mate with a silver grape leaf as a speaker gift. I’m looking forward to trying it at home.