Maté is becoming increasingly popular and can be enjoyed at any time of day, on its own or as a blend. But did you know that it is THE national drink in Argentina, and that it is consumed as part of a unique ceremony? Read on to find out more.
Maté, or tea?
Maté is from a plant in the holly family, yerba mate, or Ilex paraguariensis. This shrub is therefore nothing like a tea bush! However, that doesn’t make its brewed leaves any less delicious.
What makes it so special is that it only grows in South America – particularly in the north-eastern regions of Argentina near the borders with Paraguay and southern Brazil.
Historically, maté was already consumed by the Guarani people, who would chew it or leave it to soak in flasks of fresh water. This brought out the typically vegetal, slightly bitter taste. Yerba mate actually grew in the wild long before it was grown to be sold.
The benefits of maté
Aside from its unique flavor, maté also owes its success to the numerous benefits it offers:
- It is very high in antioxidants which help to strengthen your natural defenses. This is thanks to the polyphenols found in the powdered leaves.
- It contains 13 vitamins and important minerals such as magnesium and potassium.
- It is said to develop your reflexes and concentration thanks to the “mateine” that stimulates your nervous system. A great way to replace energy drinks.
- It may improve your cardiovascular health by reducing cholesterol and blood pressure.
Find out how to make a great maté to enjoy all its benefits!
How to prepare maté
People in Argentina and several neighboring countries drink maté throughout the day. Whether at home, at work, or in the street, with their family, colleagues, or friends. Whatever the context, they always make sure it is prepared and enjoyed according to tradition. Here is how to prepare maté.
First, put a generous serving of maté into a calabash, the name for the traditional gourd-shaped recipient, to help the aromas develop. There are countless types of calabash, in metal, enamel, or even in wood. They come in different colors and are often decorated.
You can then add sugar, honey, spices (cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, aniseed), mint, or citrus peel to taste.
Next, tip the recipient slightly to create a well that will enable you to place the bombilla, a small metal cylinder used as both a straw and a filter.
To finish off your maté recipe, pour hot or simmering water into the little well and let the yerba mate mixture infuse. Remember! After pouring the water in, you should not stir with the bombilla. Leave everything as it is, have a drink, and pass the calabash to the next person.
Maté, a legacy of sharing and community
You might have guessed, maté is rarely prepared and enjoyed alone. It is a way to bring people together, anytime and anywhere. From morning until night, among all generations and social classes, the Argentinians enjoy their favorite drink in both urban and rural communities.
The calabash is passed from person to person, regularly refilled with hot water by the chosen master of ceremonies, and occasionally renewed with more yerba mate.
In an effort to promote this cultural heritage, tourists are invited to follow the Ruta de la Yerba Mate (the maté road), which takes them through producing regions to meet growers. These dedicated farmers share their knowledge and traditions with curious travelers. An original gastronomic and cultural experience in the heart of nature, and an unmissable part of any trip to Argentina.
But that’s not all! Maté can also be “accompanied” by other delicious ingredients.
Different maté recipes
Yerba mate goes wonderfully with other ingredients. Here are a few examples of excellent maté teas:
- The Boost blend by Kusmi also brings together maté and tea. Cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, and cardamom round off the delicious experience. Try it once and you’ll be hooked!
- Blue Detox will certainly make your mouth water. This exotic blend also combines tea, yerba mate and rooibos. With every sip, you’ll be surprised to discover the sweet taste of pineapple!
- Last but not least Euphoria is a blend of maté, tea, cacao beans, orange peel, and orange blossom. A delicious recipe that will delight all the foodies out there! This recipe’s secret ingredient is roasted yerba mate, which makes it even tastier!
Now you know a little bit more about how to make maté, you can be just like French soccer player Antoine Griezmann. The athlete loves this delicious beverage and is quick to tell others about it. Now, take your maté, your calabash, and your bombilla, and enjoy the experience with others!