Drinking Yerba Mate, what’s the big deal about it?!
If there is one thing that identifies Argentinians, it is drinking Yerba Mate.
Hello everybody, my name is Nair Tolomeo and I am from Mar del Plata, Argentina, and since I started drinking mate I never let it go.
But, now, what is the big deal about this hot infusion we love so much?
For us, Argentinians, drinking mate goes beyond simply having an infusion; some kind of tea. Drinking mate means having a moment for thinking, relaxation, friendship, companionship and so on; drinking mate cannot even be compared to drinking a cup of coffee. God, no. Drinking mate requires someone taking their time, not only to prepare the pot with the yerba in it, but also the straw, the warming up of the water and adding sugar, or not. This all requires time in order to enjoy it.
The act of drinking Yerba Mate
You can have Yerba Mate bitter, sweet, hot or cold. You can add flavors such as honey, natural herbs, citrus fruits and more. Mate has so many variables that make it unique for each person, because a mate will even vary depending on who is preparing it!!!
There is no specific time of the day to drink it, you can drink it in the morning while having breakfast, after lunch, in the afternoon for the merienda, at night, etc. Any time could be mate time, you just need to warm up some water and get your mate equipment ready to go.
We take mate with us to the beach, to school, to sports events, pretty much everywhere we can!
We drink it in winter when it is cold outside, just the same as in summer when it is melting hot!
“If you didn’t try Yerba Mate while being a kid, then you had no childhood!”
Most Argentinians start drinking mate at a young age, because their parents encourage it. Who does not have a picture of himself or herself as a baby with a mate straw in their mouth? Just like we say at home, “if you did not try mate while being a kid, then you had no childhood!”
In my case, I didn’t get to try mate until I was about 14 years old, when a friend of mine asked me how come I didn’t like mate. Honestly, I used to find it too bitter, and all of my friends told me I was so weak! So they made me try some sweet mate and, to my surprise, I loved it! You can imagine I was very proud of myself for being a true Argentinian now!
Once outside of Argentina, when I moved to the USA to study, mate became my connection with home; whenever I had to study or do some homework, I would have my mate right next to me to have some company, as well as a connection with my roots and as a friend.
I remember my sister asking me why I was taking so much yerba with me to America if I did not even drink mate by myself and I said “well, someday I will.” The day for me to make it on my own eventually came and, to be honest, it was such a big fail! I overheated the water. I put too much yerba and then “washed” it by pouring too much water in at once. I literally had no idea how to do it, but I kept trying! Because mate was MY thing; I was the Argentinian girl and it felt like a must for me to be able to pour some nice mates for my international friends. And, after practicing and practicing, I finally made it to prepare some pretty decent mates.
You may now be thinking “come on, such a big deal about it…” Well, YES! In fact, I dare to say that if you are Argentinean and do not drink Yerba Mate, people will tell you that you are either weird or not a pure Argentine; as simple as that.
The meaning behind drinking Yerba Mate
Analyzing the meaning of drinking mate seems to be easier to me now living abroad than it was before, when I was at home. I believe that the reason why is because one does not get to analyze his or her own culture while being home because that is all you know; whatever you do daily is just normal to you, so we think, why should I analyze it?
“Che, nos juntamos en la costa a tomar unos mates, dale?” I mean, how normal is that! And then, once the person moves to another place, with other traditions and even other languages, that is the moment when one gets to feel this nostalgia, this feeling of something missing and there you try to find that thing that connects you with home, and that is when our beloved friend Yerba Mate comes to makes us feel warm and closer to our roots once again.
For me, Yerba Mate is a connection to my roots no matter the distance. That is the purpose, that is the meaning.