One thing you will notice during the first days of your Spanish course in Buenos Aires: you see many, many people drinking from beautifully shaped “tea cup” through a metal straw. This is the typical Argentine mate you might have heard of.
Mate is a hot drink prepared by steeping dried leaves of yerba mate and hot water. It is served in a gourd, a mate or a “guampa” in (Argentine) Spanish, and they drink it with a metal straw, a ‘bombilla’.
Mate is a powerful antioxidant that contains many vitamins (A, B, C, E) and it has cholesterol-lowering properties.
The first time I tried it I thought it was very strong and bitter! Like when you are preparing tea but you left the teabag too long in your cup. However, after a few days I started to like actually like it. And the good thing is that it contains a lot of caffeine! Perfect!
One of the Spanish teachers at our school here in Buenos Aires is happy to explain a bit more about this typical Argentine event:
Drinking mate is, for all Argentines, a very social event and there are some rules to follow. One person of the group is the server or cebador. He will refill the cup when the mate runs out. When you have finished you mate, remember to always give it back to the server, never to the person next to you. Very important and a typical beginners mistake: never touch the bombilla. Secondly: drink your mate in a few sips, in a few minutes.
When you finish the mate, it is ok to slurp! This is a respectful way to show everyone that you drunk the mate all to the end.
Did you have enough mate? Just say thanks. But isn´t it ´no, thanks´? Well, normally it is, but traditionally when you have enough mate you just say thanks!
If you have the opportunity, don’t miss out on this cultural enriching experience in Buenos Aires, it’s great fun.
(Thanks to Martin and Karlijn!)