Posted by: adventuressetravels | December 9, 2011

Maté: Argentina’s lifeblood

Almost as soon as they crawl out of bed, many Argentineans and Uruguayans put on hot water for their first maté of the day.  Though they claim it isn’t addictive, the countries’ almost compulsive consumption speaks otherwise.  There are maté totes that hold a thermos, a maté gourd, bombilla, and packet of yerba maté, or the loose-leaf tea perfectly, gas stations offer hot water dispensers for locals to fill their empty thermos.  Electric kettles that go specifically to 80◦ C, a line that states “maté” the temperature maté should be served at, are even sold in Argentina and Uruguay.

Health Benefits

Many claim for maté to have a lengthy list of health benefits.  It’s rumored to be an antioxidant, immune system booster, increase energy, lowers cholesterol, helps with weight loss and I’m sure there are quite a few more.  The increase of energy and the weight loss can of course be attributed to the high caffeine content and I can definitely vouch for both of them.  I’m generally not hungry all morning if I have maté for breakfast.  It’s also fantastic for focus.  I can sit down, concentrate and write like a crazy person after I drink my fill of one of my favorite drinks

The Maté Culture

Maté isn’t merely a drink, it is an integral thread in the Argentine cultural fabric.  Sitting around, chatting, and passing the maté gourd is a way many socialize.  Sharing maté brings people together, strengthens friendships, and builds bonds.  It is a great excuse to have a discussion or just to hang out.

The Maté Ritual

–          The cebador(server) pours the yerba (loose leaf tea) into the maté (a hollowed-out gourd cup).  Then he (or she) puts the bombilla (straw) in, pours a little cold water on it to settle the yerba before pouring the hot water and drinking the first (cooler) cup of maté himself.

–          The cebador fills the maté with hot, but not boiling, water (The ideal temperature is 80° C/ 175°F) and passes the maté to the person sitting to his left (maté is served clockwise).

–          They drink the maté (the whole cup) and pass it back to the cerbador who fills it and passes it to the next person and it goes around the circle.  The maté is always passed back to the cerbador who keeps track of whose turn it is.

The Rules of Maté

When drinking maté it’s important to follow the drinking etiquette:

  • Never say gracias or thank you when the cerbador hands you the maté.  That signifies you don’t want any more.
  • Always pass the maté back to the cerbador
  • Drink the maté quickly and pass it back; there are other people waiting for their turn.  “The bombilla is not a microphone.”

Dulce o Amargo?

Though this drink is ubiquitous in Argentina and Uruguay,  few people like the strong, slightly bitter taste of maté the first time they try it.  Partially because of this there are a number of ways to matéAmargo (bitter) or without sugar, but some like it dulce (with sugar or honey).  Many children and people who are just starting to drink maté like it sweet better.  However, in my experience most dyed-in-the-wool maté drinkers prefer amargo.  Though some continue to prefer sweetened maté, generally strong flavor grows on you.

Maté concocido is just the yerba maté in a tea bag. It is an fast easy way to get your maté fix without going through the whole ritual.  It isn’t as strong or nearly as fun, but if you really need your yerba fix and don’t have time, a maté, yerba, and a bombilla then maté concocido is a good placeholder.

Tereré – In the warmer regions of Northern Argentina and during hot summer days in the south yerba  is mixed with iced juice or cold water to make tereré.  It tastes totally different from maté but it is delicious.  Grapefruit juice is a popular mixer and I have had it mixed with orange soda but I’d definitely recommend sticking with juice.  Mmmmm

Whether or not all the claims are true maté is certainly a wonderful drink.  If you have the opportunity give this tea a chance or three.


  1. Jaja que buen articulo sobre el mate 🙂

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