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polaroid of the week argentina buenos aires mate gourds

We arrived in Buenos Aires last Friday, and one of the things we knew is that they drink Yerba Mate, an herbal, caffeinated drink that is hugely popular throughout the southern countries of South America.

What we didn’t know is that they drink mate EVERYwhere, carrying it with them in their cuia or mate, the hollowed-out gourd you drink it out of.  For those of us who end up carrying a venti Starbucks coffee around all day, it is easy to understand the attachment, but imagine being so dedicated to mate that you carry a small gourd in one hand and a giant Thermos filled with water in the other.

Mate is a lot more social than coffee, however. There is a very specific way to drink it. First you fill about half of the jar with the mate leaves, then you add hot (not boiling) water and sip it out of a silver straw. Water is added over and over again from the thermos, until the flavor runs out. Mate is usually drunk in a social environment, with family and friends, who all share one gourd, that is handed from one person to the next. You see groups of young people and couples sitting in parks sharing mate, shop owners and market vendors sipping their Mate while waiting for customers. Mate gourds are sold everywhere and range from the original ones made out of pumpkin to fancy colored glass, china, silver and wooden containers.

We quickly realized that we needed to buy our own mate gourd if we wanted to be accepted as Porteñas (locals in Buenos Aires), so we picked one up at the big antiques market in San Telmo on Sunday. We chose a traditional pumpkin gourd and steeped water and mate in it for three days, as we were told by a local friend on our first day in town. Now we are  ready to join in the mate fun in the many parks in Buenos Aires!

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    1. Lindsey – It really is a cool tradition and unlike many other ‘old-fashioned’ customs, this one is actually embraced by the young Argentinians! 🙂 There are so many different bombillas (straws) in all the stores and the markets, and they are all so pretty – it’s actually cool to have one with a special design.

    1. Reg – that’s actually true, I’ve seen a lot of Mate-drinking people in Spain and my friends from Argentina who live in Spain always bring their Mate with them 🙂 I just heard that Mate is also very popular in Poland now – who would’ve thought!?

  1. The first time I tried mate, I thought it was odd. But then it might have been the situation: I was in a bar in Puno and met an Argentinian who, after being sufficiently drunk, thought that would be a brilliant idea to go back to the hostel and drink maté tea. haha. Now I quite like it. 🙂

  2. I’m so love this tradition of ours. I love going over to my folks house and my dad brings out the mate it brings us all together, growing up here in Australia people find it odd hahaha

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