Know all secrets of the national infusion of Argentina, the most famous beverage among Creoles. Tips, information and advice to master the subject, without boasting.
If a porteño offers mate, it is a signal that means that you made a good impression, that you are kind and pleasant. Why? Because in Argentina, mate is much more than a beverage, it is a custom, a moment of brotherhood, a bond of union. Mate is not drunk to quench thirst, it is a ritual performed in an encounter, or it also helps to cope with loneliness in long days at work or endless nights of study.
Declared the national infusion of Argentina, it is a beverage consumed with a straw and it is made with yerba and hot water in a small pumpkin-shaped container. It seems a simple process, but it is not as simple, its preparation requires so many tricks and secrets that it usually generates big differences and even discussions among Argentines. Tip: all porteños are convinced that they are mate experts, so you'd better not contradict them.
This green infusion has been consumed for long time, even before the Spanish colonization. In fact, given that the yerba comes from a tree growing in Argentine litoral region and Paraguay and Uruguay, mate is one of the few customs that original towns transmitted to conquerors. The story tells that Jesuits eventually accepted it after proving that it Guaranis were more vigorous and energetic and not lazy at all. Because, after all, mate has interesting benefits for health: it stimulates the central nervous system without causing insomnia, it supplies vitamins and minerals, and it is diuretic and contains antioxidant substances.
Taken to social status, mate makes no difference among rich and poor, it is like Coke: equal to everybody. Moreover, mate is not a beverage for fussy people: cleaning the straw before drinking mate is taken as a gesture of disdain and rudeness. Do not do it.
Without a fixed term, the ritual of mate may extend all day long. Most people take it as breakfast or in the afternoon to replace coffee or tea, but some fundamentalists drink mate between meals almost as if it was a doctor's prescription. Regarding flavor, consensus is unanimous: it is drunk bitter; sugar is added by those trying to “soften it”.
Regarding the container itself, opinions are mixed. On one hand, there are defendants of the traditional cured and bare pumpkin with a wide mouth, and on the other, the most democratic consumers are open to new designs and technologies. However, experts claim that the ideal straw is made of stainless steel, alpaca or silver, without exception.
The process is very personal, but here we will tell you what you need to know to prepare a good mate: first, load the container with three-quarts of yerba, then cover the mate mouth with the palm of your hand, turn it around and shake it to settle yerba and remove dust. Afterwards, add water to the yerba slowly on one side and put the straw there, leaving it there. Finally, add hot water at the exact point, never boiled, but between 70 and 80 degrees.
It may be made of pumpkin, leather, pottery, ceramic, porcelain, wood, metal, silver, silicon, glass or aluminum. There is a fact behind endless materials, designs and colors: there are mates to cater all tastes. You will find them at bazaars, leather goods shops, design stores, or stores selling regional articles.
The coolest mates. Ceramic. The designs of Pampa mate, with ceramic, curved lines and assorted colors, come with two big handles for sharing. www.quedisenio.com.ar. Silicon. Mateo was the first factory to manufacture silicon mates. They are flexible, heat insulating, easily washed, light and hygienic: they do not retain flavors. www.matemateo.com. Glass. Some are transparent and attractive; others are lined with plain, printed or textured leather. www.acrimat.com.ar.
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