April 16, 2009

Yerba Mate


The economy is on everybody's lips lately, and Argentineans are expert economisers–with all of their own economic ups and downs, they know that the best things in life are free.

A walk in the spring air, watching the trees blossom, a hug from a child, an afternoon nap, the company of a good friend. 

Argentineans are masters at slowing down, enjoying life and its wonders.  They spend time with friends and family they care for, they have a glass of wine and sit down to dinner as a family.   This is something I admit Istruggle with–I have a hard time letting myself nap or taking time to just slow down, let go and enjoy something beautiful for 5 minutes–like the view of the fog rolling over the mountains outside my window.

As Americans, we seem to always be rushing, trying to 'get things done'–when really, 'done' doesn't ever happen.  Life can pass us by without stopping to savor its pleasures.

Today, I am stopping to take a breath.  To enjoy being alive, to share a mate with my husband, to chat with a friend, to hug my son (and maybe even take a nap!).

Yerba Mate is drunk by most Argentineans, regardless of class or background–it is a sort of common denominator.  It's drunk once a day: "from morning till evening", as many Argentineans say! 

Typically, groups of friends at any outdoor excursion or gathering will bring along a thermos of hot water, a mate and yerba.  Or families will meet after waking from siesta to drink mate.  Traditionally, it is drunk communally in a group–the same mate straw (a bombilla) shared by everyone.  The mate is refilled with hot water using the same leaves, until they lose their flavor.

It is something that fosters community, strengthens friendships, encourages sharing and bonding.  Over the past year, I've had the pleasure of building a community with other bloggers, food writers, and readers–thanks to you all!  Today, I will be sipping my mate with you, even if it is just virtual–I'm stopping to appreciate what great things surround me.  I hope you'll do the same!

Yerba Mate

Yerba Mate Tea

Yerba Mate (comes in a variety of styles–we drink mate cocido sin palo, but you can also try those infused with citrus or peppermint!)

sugar, to taste

Hot water (NOT boiling, or you'll burn your mouth!)

bombilla filter straw

mate (gourd or other)

A note:  Yerba Mate, and a mate kit with the mate bowl it's commonly served in, can be found at shops like Whole Foods, or at many Latin supermarkets (like Rancho Liborio) where it is much less expensive.

Fill the mate (bombilla inside) with the yerba about 2/3 full.  Add the sugar to taste, do not stir.  Pour the hot water over the yerba in a circular motion until full but not over-flowing.  Drink from the bombilla.  The yerba will be very strong at first, but will mellow after several refills.

Relevant posts:  Yerba Mate, Argentina's National Drink (with mate preparation video)

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More photos on my flickr photostream, From Argentina With Love.

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4 Responses to “Yerba Mate”

  1. Ever since you first wrote about this (with the great video), I’ve been looking for yerba mate in the local markets. Most recently I found this on the shelf in my Middle Eastern grocery store. Imagine my surprise! I’ve found it at the Latino markets also, and in one case it was in the Spanish foods section of the regular grocery store.

  2. Me encanta mate cocido con leche! And it’s so true. Like you, one thing I love about Argentina is how the culture allows you to “stop and smell the roses”. Thank heavens for the siesta! I remember coming home from Argentina after living there for 1.5 years and thinking “Why are there tons of people in the street at 1pm? Don’t they know about the siesta?!” Alas, I have fallen back into rush mode. Thank you for the reminder to enjoy the small moments in life admist the craziness :)

  3. I found your website while searching for a recipie for pasta frolla, and what memories it brought back to me. I remember my father having mate on our porch and sharing stories. My grandmother baking her wonderful pasta frolla. I have not been back to Argentina in over 44 years. Thank you again for your excellent website and for awakening such wonderful memories of my childhood.

  4. Thanks for sharing your mate. I miss this custom so much.
    May I have a little sugar in mine? 😉

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