Jody’s friend, Carol Jones, invited us to her home for mate (pronounced mah-tay) on Sunday afternoon. An invitation to partake in mate is a cultural treat and not to be missed. From the Lonely Planet book, below is a brief description.
The preparation and consumption of mate is perhaps the only cultural practice that truly transcends the barriers of ethnicity, class and occupation in Argentina. More than a simple drink, mate is an elaborate ritual, shared among family, friends and co-workers.
Yerba mate is the dried chopped leaf of llex paraguayensis, a relative of the common holly. Argentina is the largest producer and consumer of the Yerba and Argentines consume more mate than four times their average intake of coffee.
Preparing and drinking mate is a ritual in itself. One person, the cebador (server) fills the mate gourd almost to the top with Yerba, and then slowly pours hot water as he or she fills the gourd. The cebador then passes the mate to each drinker, who sips the liquid through the bombilla, a silver straw with a bulbous filter at its lower end. Each participant drinks the gourd dry each time. When finished, you pass it back to the server who fills it with more water and passes it on. A simple ‘gracias’ will tell the server to pass you by.
The drink, I would say, is an acquired taste -rather bitter -yet I liked it and found it similar to green tea.
When we were shopping, I took a photo of Yerba mate and the mate gourd (of which there are many different designs) —-