Mate

mate

Mate [mah-tey], also known as chimarrão or cimarrón, is a traditional South American infused drink particularly popular in Argentina. It is prepared by steeping dried leaves of the yerba mate plant in hot water. Mate is served with a metal straw, called a bombilla, from a hollow calabash gourd, called a mate.

As with other brewed herbs, yerba mate leaves are dried, chopped, and ground into a powdery mixture called yerba. The bombilla acts as both a straw and a sieve. The submerged end is flared, with small holes or slots that allow the brewed liquid in, but block the chunky matter that makes up much of the mixture.

In Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina, the same gourd and straw are used by everyone drinking. One person (the cebador) assumes the task of server. Typically, the cebador fills the gourd and drinks the mate completely to ensure that it is free of particulate matter and of good quality. In some places passing the first brew of mate to another drinker is considered bad manners, as it may be too cold or too strong; for this reason the first brew is often called mate del zonzo (mate of the fool). The cebador subsequently refills the gourd and passes it to the drinker to his or her right, who likewise drinks it all, without thanking the server.

Some drinkers like to add sugar or honey, creating mate dulce (sweet mate), instead of sugarless mate amargo (bitter mate). It is considered bad for the gourd (especially for the natural (squash or wood) ones) to be used for mate dulce so it is normal for households with drinkers of both kinds to have two separate gourds.

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