Revered by locals all over the River Plate region (Argentina, Uruguay,Paraguay and even asfar as Southern Brazil), there is something alluring about this curious drink that you are sure to come across at some stage during your study abroad progam in Buenos Aires.
For those of you still wondering what this green substance in wooden, metal or leather covered gourds (“mate”), consumed though a pipe (“bombilla”) and passed around from one person to another in ritualistic fashion is, fear not; it is nothing less than the famous and ever-popular “yerba mate” ( pronounced “sherba ma-te”).
The yerba mate tradition originated with the Guarani Indians living in remote parts of South America long before any of the Spanish settlers colonized it. Born of mystical origins and worshipped ever since, mate is not only enjoyed by the majority of Argentines, but has a host of benefits and health advantages. Among these are:
- It stimulates without causing either insomnia or nervous agitation (unlike coffee);
- It contains vitamins (A, B, C) and is rich in carotene, potassium, magnesium, manganese, sodium, iron and phosphorus;
- It helps in frequent ailment of constipation and it also helps to improve the cardiac and respiratory function;
- It is rumoured to eliminate or ease the suffering of severe diseases such as; hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, cancer and arthritis.
And as if that weren’t enough, there are a variety of flavors and brands to enjoy. Newbies might find the taste a little too bitter (“amargo”) at first, but don’t be ashamed to sprinkle some sugar over the yerba before adding the water to make it sweet (“dulce”).
However, the most important part of the mate ritual, is undoubtedly the sharing, as this is the part that unites friends, families, acquaintances and strangers. The mate is shared in a circular manner, with one person who serves (the “cebador/a”) and hands the mate to each member of the circle until the water thermos is empty. Partaking in this tradition, one of Argentina’s most popular, can be a great way to get to know the local culture while you study Spanish in Buenos Aires.