Mate: the tea of Argentina
Buenos Aires Travel Blog› entry 8 of 13 › view all entries
To me mate is what coffee is to the French, with an extra personal touch. Everywhere you go the locals are constantly drinking mate, almost like an addiction. I have always been a tea lover, and was excited to get my first taste of mate. I was somewhat surprised, however, to find that I could not just simply order a cup at a café. I did order a cup of mate at a restaurant, but was made fun of for it because it came in a tea bag, and as a local told me “it isn’t ´real´ mate”.
After my embarrassment at the restaurant I told myself that I would go buy myself an official mate cup and straw and do it “how the locals do it”. I purchased my mate gourd from the market in El Tigre, that came with a memorable souvenir box with a tango dancer engraved in it, and with “Argentina” written on the front. A few days later when I had a chance I walked to the local grocery store, Disco, and purchased ‘pomelo’ (or grapefruit) mate.
Since JB grew up drinking mate I felt that he would be a good person to go to for advice on how to effectively drink my first cup of mate. I was very excited to drink my first official cup, when he broke the bad news: that I had to ‘cure’ my gourd before drinking out of it. This entailed making mate as it is normally made, pouring the tea to the top of the cup, and putting hot water in it. However, I had to let it sit for 24 hours so that the mate taste would settle in the cup, and so that the tea would not taste like wood, or the gourd.
The next day, exactly 24 hours after, I repeated the process of the night before, and sat and had my first cup of mate. Everyone warned me that it was an acquired taste, and I definitely see the point. It tastes very much like a bitter and strong green tea, but honestly I liked it a lot.
The thing that I enjoy the most about mate, however, is the personal touch that comes with it. It is the fact that “normal” people do not order mate at a restaurant or café. It is something that you sit around and do with your friends, or something that you do on your own time. J