The oasis of Yerba Mate
In today’s world, where time goes like water, sitting down to take a mate and chat with a friend is a state of oasis in chaos. My life is rooted in Puebla, Mexico, where coffee prevails among the most consumed beverages. Here, in “Dos Piantaos cocina artesanal argentina,” you can get everything you need to drink Yerba Mate: the gourd, bombilla or “straw,” as the villagers say, the utensil used to clean the bombilla, the necessary loose-leaf yerba which is never only referred to as “herbs” so as not to frighten some people and even books about Yerba Mate for those who are fanatics for mate.
“It uses the leaves of a small shrub, a plant originating in the basins of the Paraná rivers,” is what I tell people when I first discuss Yerba Mate, because they always think that I’m selling or promoting marijuana whenever they first hear the word, “herb!” “The plants are dried, cut and ground up from the tree, which has a bitter taste due to the tannins in its leaves,” is what I follow up with; making sure to be a bit more scientific to ward off any hesitations they always still have.
The endless benefits of Yerba Mate
Another recurring question among Mexicans is that of Yerba Mate’s properties, to which I say that, as with tea, coffee or chocolate, mate has a stimulating effect due to the caffeine in it. In addition to containing vitamin C, lowering cholesterol and curbing appetite, it has a thousands other things that make people believe it’s the solution to all of their problems. The fact that Messi uploads so many photos with mate and scores so many goals also helps to generate their interest.
Like the other beverages mentioned, mate has a certain level of acidity, which is why some people like to add other herbs in order to neutralize the acidity, as well as compensate for the stimulating effects of caffeine. It’s because of this that I usually sell loose-leaf yerba flavored with orange, grapefruit, mint, or even the insult to traditional drinkers of forest and tropical fruits. And while some people may prefer to drink mate straight without adding anything, these flavored blends are necessary in order to hook people who have never tasted it before with a pleasant first experience, versus giving them a traditional and strong Argentina brand of mate, which would cause people to never return for me. Traditionally, mate is consumed hot with a straw called a bombilla, placed in a small cup or gourd.
Yerba Mate’s growing popularity in Mexico
The conquistadors who saw natives drinking mate, believed that the mate was the herb of the devil, since they had never seen it before. They also maintained that it was a drink of lazy people, since the natives dedicated several hours per day to this rite, which is a tradition that is still kept today, since one can spend most of the day drinking mate while reading, cooking or even watching television.
In Argentina, it’s very common to drink mate while traveling, so it’s not unusual to see people enjoying it in plazas or parks. It’s also important to note that drinking mate isn’t usually a solitary experience, but is more of a communal activity shared between acquaintances and strangers alike. The reason that Yerba Mate generated both astonishment and even a little rejection in the beginning of its time here here, in Mexico, is because people thought that they each had to have their own mate and not share it with anyone, even someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend.
As a matero in Mexico, the Mexican interest in this beautiful, rich and healthy South American tradition never ceases to amazing me. People know and consume it for several reasons. These include seeing Argentinian soccer players in Mexico drink it, because there are many of them over here, which drives people to want to go see mate for themselves in Argentina, or maybe they heard about it from a friend of a friend who heard about it from me, or they have an Argentinian girlfriend or boyfriend; the reasons are endless as to how people are introduced to mate and why they drink it.
Yerba Mate is for everyone
In my native Argentina, drinking mate is something as normal as going to the bathroom, hanging out with gomias (friends), with la vieja (mother), in the lleca (street) to borrow a few lunfardo terms, or the colloquial language we use in Argentina. In the plaza or where, in summer or winter, hot or cold, any place is suitable for drinking mate. People say that it destroys barriers, and that it cures great annoyances.
Yerba Mate can be finer, more popular, more bitter or more whatever someone wants, because people can drink it in a way that fits to their own way of being or lifestyle; it causes some to become energetic, others to relax and some drink it even to become inspired.
Every day I try to express to people the love of mate, the tradition, the custom and, most importantly, the ability to create an incredible conversation as if we we had a glass of wine in our hands.
“With my boots and some mate, I’m at the top.” It’s time for a mate.