For me the mate is not a thing, it’s a friend
The word ‘mate’ is slang for ‘friend’ in Australia and New Zealand. This is exactly what Yerba Mate also means to me. Let me tell you why.
I was born in Argentina. When I was 6 years old, I moved with my parents and two sisters to Belgium. The cultures in these two countries are very different, but, luckily, I managed blend in, find friends and have a lovely childhood.
It was only at age 20 that I started to become nostalgic and miss my family living in Argentina. At the same time, I became curious about the country, culture, values and general way of living. So, after graduating from high school, I decided to travel to Argentina for three months in order to become better acquainted with my roots.
The mate ceremony
Once I arrived in Argentina, I was offered mate. Every day. It’s the most popular drink around and comes in a variety of flavors, temperatures (hot or cold) and, among other things, with or without sugar (amargo o dulce). The cold version is called tereré. Instead of warm water, juice is used together with ice cubes. It’s perfect for hot summers!
Drinking mate is much more than consuming a fluid. It’s a ceremony that honours sharing. Let’s say we drink mate with four friends. There will be only one cup. There will be a cebador, which is the person who prepares and serves the mate. The cebador will pass the mate to one person at a time. The person who drinks it gives it back to the cebador, and the cebador then refills it before handing it off to the next person. It’s all about sharing a moment with friends and family.
The healthy side of Yerba Mate
During my travels, I also met my partner, Luis. Luis is the biggest drinker of mate that I know! So, my consumption of mate went from almost never drinking it to drinking it all day, every day. This may sound a bit like an addiction, but it’s actually very healthy. I’m one of those people that forgets to drink enough water through the day, so drinking mate helps me to get enough water in my body, and drinking enough water is necessary for overall good health. Our organs, cells, joints, digestive system and the regulation of our temperature need it in order to not just survive, but thrive.
On the other hand, Yerba Mate contains antioxidants, potassium, amino acids and vitamins. It’s proven to help increase concentration, prevent sinusitis, strengthen cardiovascular health, regulate cholesterol and aid in weight loss.
Centuries ago, the native Guaraní and Quechua people of South America drank mate for medicinal purposes, and associated it with prestige. The Guaraní people were located in Paraguay, Northern Argentina and Brazil. The Quechua people were located in Peru. Today, mate is heavily consumed in central and southern regions South America.
Drinking mate is eco-friendly
By the way, drinking mate is more eco-friendly than drinking tea from tea bags. Why? Well, I wrote an article about the reasons on my sustainable lifestyle blog, The Green Choice. In that article, you’ll also find a video where I explain how to prepare mate, which has its own secrets.
When I returned to Belgium from my trip to Argentina, I continued drinking mate. First of all, because I love the taste. I find it much more delicious than regular tea from the supermarket. Also, because it makes me feel more at home and closer to Argentina. After returning to Belgium, I didn’t just miss my family, but also Luis. Drinking mate helped me soothe this longing, and gave me peace of mind. So, instead of eating a full tub of ice cream while watching TV, I drank mate. Here in Belgium, it isn’t easy to find mate. I have to go to the capital, where there’s a shop with Latin American goods. When my family and I go there, the entire shelf of mate disappears. Well, almost!
Now, Luis and I live together in Belgium. We have this routine where, when we both come home from work, we prepare mate. It marks a moment in the day to relax and enjoy being together. On the weekends, we drink mate throughout the entire day. And when we travel, which is often, mate is a must have item in our luggage; it’s accompanied us on all of our trips. We also recently noticed that mate always finds a way of appearing in our travel photos!
They say things don’t make you happy. I agree with this, but mate is an exception, because the mate is a friend, not a thing.