WOULD YOU LIKE SOME MATE?
Drinking mate is as popular in Argentina as drinking tea in Poland or, as some would say, in England. You’ll meet people having mate together on many different occasions: at home, while preparing asado (I’ll write about that some time later), during a friends’ meeting or even when driving a car.
There are probably as many ways of preparing mate as there are people in Argentina. Some methods are more traditional and other have a rather ‘modern’ taste. The one described below I’ve learnt from Alberto whose tradition of drinking mate comes from the region of Entre Rios.
A bit of vocabulary at first: mate is both the beverage and the container in which you prepare it. Yerba mate are the dried leaves you put into the container and bombilla is a special kind of straw you drink it with.
If you have a new container made of calabash or wood you need to impregnate it before using it for the first time. This can be done by spreading some butter on the inside and letting it dry or by pouring some cognac inside it and lighting it up with a small fire. A third option is to fill it with a damp yerba mate and leave it for a few days.
When the container is ready you can begin preparing the beverage. First you pour the yerba mate into the mate up to 3/4 of its height. You cover the top with your hand and you shake it a few times so that the dust from the mate falls to the bottom. Next you slant the mate so that the yerba falls more to one side of the container. You pour a bit of lukewarm water to the place where yerba is at its lower level and you put the bombilla in this place. You take a small sip and you spit it out – this is to remove the dust from the yerba.
Here comes the moment when you pour the water heated to 82-84 degrees Celsius to the mate. Always do it in the place where bombilla is placed and where the level of yerba is lower. Never add boiling water as a temperature too high kills the yerba and spoils the whole infusion. You fill the container with water up to 3/4 of its height. Your mate is ready! You drink it with small sips one after another. When the container becomes empty you refill it with water. Ideally it should always be heated to the same temperature, but it is also common to use the water from the kettle you heated the water for the first time or from the thermos if you’re enjoying your mate outside.
Only after the mate is drank from the same container for 10-15 times you can move the position of the bombilla to the other side. Do it slowly and never stir the yerba with the bombilla! The same yerba mate can be refilled with water as long as you see a foam or at least bubbles on the surface of the drink. When they are gone you need to change the yerba and start all over again.
Well, enjoy your mate! Buen provecho!