Sharing Mate. Socializing in Argentina is synonymous with drinking mate (pronounced ma-te). Mate is an acquired taste, especially if drunk bitter, without sugar. Jenny and the girls have all tried it, and Jenny continues to drink it socially. I have taken to also preparing it at home and have bought a mate container (actually called a mate, as opposed to the tea itself, which is called yerba mate) and a bombilla, a filtering straw.
Of course, Wikipedia has a much more complete overview of mate than I could possibly give. Mate. Read about it, or not.
In my Spanish classes I often use a ‘leyenda’ which relates the origins of ‘mate.’ Here is a summary of that legend from Wikipedia: The Guaraní (Guarani, in Portuguese) people started drinking mate in the region that now includes Paraguay, southern Brazil, south-eastern Bolivia, north-east Argentina, and Uruguay. The Guaraní have a legend that says that the Goddesses of the Moon and the Cloud came to the Earth one day to visit it but they instead found a Yaguareté (a jaguar) that was going to attack them. An old man saved them, and, in compensation, the Goddesses gave the old man a new kind of plant, from which he could prepare a “drink of friendship”.
The antioxidant properties make ‘mate’ a good substitute for coffee, which was my binge beverage for the first few months in Argentina- we live a few doors away from a coffee shop where an expresso and the morning paper were all too inviting. Nowadays mate is my drink of choice and especially so in social situations.
So give it a try. You can find it at your local co-op in bags or sold as loose tea (which means you will need the special straw). In Argentina if you take too long to finish your serving, so that new water can be added and the mate passed along, you might hear someone say, “che, no es micrófono.”- “dude, it’s not a microphone!”