Partake in the Argentine tea culture by sipping some yerba mate! Shivani gives us the scoop on what this beverage is, where to buy it in Buenos Aires, and how to consume this local drink (in a special mate cup) the right way. After all, studying abroad is also about discovering and trying new things.
Having mate in Argentina.
First thing’s first: What is mate?
Yerba mate is a type of tea with leaves found in South America; it is used very commonly by people mostly in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil. The South American climate is perfect to grow this plant, which is why it is only produced here, really. Fun fact: Argentina is actually the world’s leading producer in yerba mate. It is usually consumed in a calabash gourd, but can also be sold in wooden, ceramic, and even silicon cups. To drink mate, you must also have a straw, which is usually made out of metal and has small openings at the bottom to block the loose leaf tea leaves getting into the straw.
Where do you get mate from?
Mate cups and leaves can be found quite easily anywhere in the city. There are many different brands of mate leaves that you can choose from any normal grocery store.
This is a random bag of mate from the grocery store I bought the other week.
It also has many different flavors, but this one is just regular yerba mate.
I looked around a few areas before buying a mate cup. You can find them under tents at every tourist spot, souvenir shop, flea market, matería (stores specifically just for everything mate), and so many more places.
I decided to purchase one my second time at the San Telmo market. It is a greener wooden cup that has a different type of aroma that seeps into the yerba mate because of the specific type of wood used.
My mate cup and “bombilla” (the straw).
The San Telmo market is a great place to visit, especially Sundays. There are numerous tents and shops to shop for vintage clothing, jewelry, and many other items you wouldn’t even think of like spoons, art, etc... It is very random and fun to walk through.
*Back on topic*
How do you drink mate?
Place the straw in the mate cup. Then, place the yerba into the cup almost to the brim, but not fully. Add hot water (make sure the water is not boiling—that is not only found to crack the mate cup sometimes, but will burn the leaves too) to the side of the cup.
Mate all ready in the mate cup!
You can then drink out of the straw and keep refilling the mate cup with more water as needed. Do not stir the mate—you do not need to and should not either!
Remember, mate culture is all about sharing—you will see all families, couples, friends passing around a mate cup with one another and filling it up regularly. It is not as normal to have a personal mate and drink it by yourself. The whole point is to share your cup with others and make it more of a social thing. Even at work during presentations, coworkers will pass around a mate and take a few sips before passing it to the next person. Maybe not the most sanitary, but it is definitely something to get into while in Buenos Aires (and in general anywhere in Argentina and its surrounding countries)!
Shivani Pandya is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2019, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Bioinformatics major at University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester.
Shivani's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.