If you are a tea or infusion lover, or if you have been lucky enough to travel to Argentina, then you will surely know yerba mate, the drink par excellence of Argentine culture.
Every Argentine, wherever he goes, always carries a mate, a bombilla, a thermos with hot water and obviously the indispensable yerba mate in his backpack. Let’s find out what it is; yerba mate is an infusion prepared with the leaves of mate, an evergreen plant. The dried leaves are placed in the mate, a recipient of pumpkin or glass, wood, or metal, which is shaken to mix all the leaves, stalks and powder, after that the water is added. Now it is the turn of the bombilla, a kind of straw that has a filter to avoid the passage of the leaves, that should never be used to stir the infusion.
In Argentina yerba mate is produced only in the province of Misiones and in the northeast of Corrientes, currently this country is the main producer and exporter of this infusion. According to the data, each inhabitant consumes about 6.4 kg of yerba mate per year and it is present in more than 90% of Argentine houses.
Yerba mate has many properties, it is a powerful antioxidant because it is rich in polyphenols, it is a source of B vitamins, it is a source of minerals because it contains potassium and magnesium, it helps to decrease LDL cholesterol and in addition, it has an energizing effect as rich in caffeine, theobromine and theophylline.
For Argentines, mate is a reason of national pride, a real ritual, a social practice, an excuse to meet people, a tradition that is handed down from family to family. Represents the true “Argentinean” of this people, the practice of infusion is even more important to Argentines than morning coffee for the Italians or the afternoon tea for British people.
Argentines consume mate even when they are at home alone, given its meditative properties, but in most cases this “ritual” so rooted in their tradition represents union, friendship, is a contribution to socialization, in short it is a synonym of sharing.
Did you know that in Argentina the “Día Nacional del Mate” (national mate day) is celebrated on November 30 of each year? In 2015, the Congress of the Argentine Nation chose this day to commemorate the birth of Andrés Guacurarí y Artigas, governor of the province of Misiones who promoted the production and sales of yerba mate from 1815 to 1819.
“Mirá, un mate es como un punto y aparte. Uno lo toma y después se puede empezar un nuevo párrafo” (“Look, a mate is like a full stop. You drink it and after you can begin a new paragraph”), Julio Cortázar.