Children of Yerba Mate
If you are born in Argentina, it’s common that, since you were a kid, about two years old, you’d get to try mate. It’s like a before and after, which allows you to discover the pleasure of coming together with people to enjoy and share moments. Even if your face isn’t the most beautiful after you’ve tried it, you’ll surely come around when you’re old enough. Finally, one day, you’ll tell your mother, “Okay, let’s see if I’ll enjoy it,” to which she’ll respond with the answer that never fails, “Be careful, it’s hot!” After this moment, the mate has already caught you, since it is inevitable that one day you’ll find yourself putting the kettle on the flame to prepare some mates.
In this culture, there are many nuances; there are those who prefer sweet mate, or in syrup, as it is commonly said when the sugar is passed. There are those who put yuyos in it, like pennyroyal, cedrón and burrito. There are those who like it with orange, lemon, tangerine and I’ve even seen some of them drink it out of a grapefruit! The truth is that we prefer bitter mate, simply yerba and hot water!
For an Argentine, mate is synonymous with sharing, chatting, taking a break from the work day, relaxing, spending a moment with family and discussing everything from the good to the bad to the ugly. The mate is always among us, there’s always a small place in the kitchen of each house where it’s stored or, rather, displayed, because many times it is above the counter in true decorative style.
The best companion for any trip
A year ago, we went on a trip throughout South America and, during such a journey, the only thing that bothered us when we left Argentina was the question of where to find yerba. In order to not suffer the loss of our friend, we left our country with four kilos (9 pounds). As we began to finish it, we reduced our daily intake, but never lacked it! Something we learned is that if you look hard enough, mate is everywhere. Sometimes it’s expensive but it’s still there! For us, it is the companion of a trip; we take it everywhere and are always ready to find a park to sit down and enjoy a good mate.
For foreigners, to see someone with mate is quite an event. We enjoy sitting in the square of cities of any country and prepare some greens, as it is said in Argentine lunfardo. Sometimes, in most touristy cities, we go unnoticed. Maybe it’s because they’re already used to seeing people with other customs. But in small towns, they look at us as they pass by and mutter things we never hear but already imagine.
Conquering one heart at a time with Yerba Mate
Our mate travels in an open pocket of our backpack, so our friend is visible all of the time. It’s because of this and that we’re frequently asked, “Argentines or Uruguayans?” Drinking mate is a ritual, whose importance Argentines don’t notice. This is because it’s an everyday thing, and they’re used to being in rounds of mate.
We made many friends during this year of travels, generally from countries different from ours. Some wanted to try mate, and it was quite the adventure for them. Not everyone liked it. Many said it was very bitter, others said it was very hot, and almost everyone sucked from the bombilla once before passing to the next person. It is then when our Argentine pride comes from inside and we explain that people need to drink it to the end, when it makes a “noise.” It is a matter of getting used to and we believe that, with time, it eventually conquers the hearts of all.
Mate is in all moments of our life, to the point that we take photos of it! People call us crazy for taking photos of mate in the places we visit. Yes! They look at us strangely when we put the mate in front of a camera, on a stone or in the grass to take a photo, but the truth is that more than one of them will smile and raise their thumb, as if accepting our culture. It is a way of telling us that the roots are intact in more places we know regardless of however far we go.