Join me in Argentina as I discover mate – Argentina's national drink. Argentina is the biggest consumer and producer of this traditional caffeine infused drink, and you can't go anywhere without seeing people sharing a cup. You can also watch and share this video on Facebook and YouTube.
When I first arrived in Argentina, I saw people drinking mate on the street, while riding buses, hanging out in parks, at the beach – literally everywhere I looked! I had no idea what it was, and I was honestly a little intimidated to find out. Everyone had these special contraptions with them to make and consume the mate that I had never seen before. I later learned that the process is not all that difficult.
Mate is made with an infusion of dried leaves from the yerba mate plant and often mixed with other herbs and spices. Some people add sugar, other people make it with flavored water, and even sometimes with milk. You can drink it hot or cold – but most people I met were drinking it with hot water that they kept with them all day in a big thermos.
Mate is served in a hollow cup called a calabash gourd with a special metallic drinking straw called a bombilla. (These are the special contraptions I was talking about earlier that intimidated me, but really it's just a cup with a built-in straw!) No single use plastic required for this drink.
The main thing to know about mate is that it's a social drink. Argentinians traditionally drink it together in groups. I have of course seen people drinking it alone, but predominantly you'll see groups of friends sharing the experience together. Typically one person will prepare the mate, fill the calabash gourd with hot water, and pass it to someone else. If stoners got high from hot drinks instead of smoking, I'd imagine the process would be much like this one.
Argentinians can't get enough mate, and after my first sip, I was hooked too! I love hot drinks in general. I'm a big coffee and tea drinker, and I rarely add sugar or milk to either. I enjoy the raw natural flavors of hot drinks, so I was lucky to be able to try mate for the first time without any added sugar or flavored water.
What's unique about drinking mate versus many other teas is that the leaves of the yerba mate plant float around the drink. I had originally thought that because of this, I'd be sucking up leaf particles, but the special cup and attached draw pulls from the bottom and filters out the solids.
The other strange aspect of drinking mate is that you put A LOT of plant in the drink! Whereas a cup of tea may be 90/10 hot water to tea leaf ratio, mate is like 90/10 leaf to water ratio. Meaning, the cup is pretty much filled to the brim with the mate leaves, herbs, and spices, and then you add the water which fills up around it. You know that the mate is still good (ie: hasn't used up all its flavors) as long as you see bubbles coming to the surface. When there are no more bubbles, you replace the mate mix with a fresh batch.
The whole experience is fun, social, and delicious – and I became an instant fan of mate. My advice to you next time you travel to Argentina is when you see people drinking mate, just ask, “What's that?” And I'm sure they'll be happy to explain it to you and probably share a cup with you.
Is mate healthy to drink?
This was one of the first questions I had after I got hooked on mate. Is mate healthy? Is mate better for you than coffee? With a little Google research, I learned from Healthyline that mate is rich in antioxidants like xanthines (which are the stimulants), caffeoyl derivatives (which are the healthy antioxidants), saponins (which offer anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties), and polyphenols (which are known to reduce the risk of many diseases). Mate also contains seven out of the nine essential amino acids and nearly every vitamin and mineral your body needs. So yeah, I'd say it's pretty healthy.
I also learned that mate can help prevent infections from bacteria, parasites, and fungi. Drinking mate can help reduce scaly skin, dandruff, and certain skin rashes which are caused by fungi.
Lastly I discovered that mate can help you lose weight because it reduces your appetite and boosts your metabolism while simultaneously decreasing the total number of fat cells and the amount of fat they they hold. There have been studies done where overweight people were given mate powder every day and lost weight and belly fat. Is that why Argentinians are so attractive? Did I just discover their fountain of good looks?
Can I drink mate outside of Argentina?
Nope! The only place that you can legally drink mate is within the geographic borders of Argentina. So you'll have to come visit sometime!
I'm kidding obviously (I just want you to travel more). Mate is actually very popular in many countries outside of Argentina including Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, and Brazil. I just haven't been to those countries yet so I chose to focus this video about Argentinian's love for the traditional drink and because I learned that they are the biggest producers and consumers of mate.
There are even a handful of sellers on Amazon that can get you started with a calabash gourd and bombilla and a mate mix that you can prepare at your house. You'll probably want to pick up a big thermos like they do in Argentina so that you can take your new setup to the park and enjoy mate outside with your friends.
Rest assured, I'll be introducing mate to friends all over the world in the future, because mate is one Argentinian tradition that I hope spreads!
Thanks for watching! While you're here, check out the rest of my travel videos.
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