Argentina Mate Tea Ritual
Mate (pronounced "mah-teh") has been a traditional beverage in Argentina since the 1700s. It's prepared by steeping dried yerba mate leaves in hot water and is enjoyed socially in the form of a Mate Ceremony called Tomando Mate.
The origins of mate tea can be traced back to the native Guarani people, who were the first drinkers of mate tea. For them, mate was an object of worship, and they used it as a form of exchange amongst the tribes. In the eyes of the Guarani, the harvest of a mate plant was a blessing from their gods. Moreover, in the colonial era, mate rituals served as a unifying force across social standings: from the wealthy to the poor, from native to the settler, everyone drank and shared mate. Valeria Trapaga, the trailblazing mate sommelier, eloquently stated, "Mate makes us all equal."
The Mate ceremony begins with the preparation of the beverage. The mate should be brewed in a particular container, commonly made of wood, although other materials, such as metal or ceramics, are also used. The most traditional variation of the cup is made of a dried pumpkin called la calabaza. The mate cup is filled with lots of dried leaves and hot water for brewing, which can be refilled as needed.
Once the mate is prepared, it is passed around the circle for each guest to enjoy. During the Mate Ceremony, a designated cebador (server) prepares and serves the mate from a single drinking gourd and a bombilla. The bombilla is similar to a straw but has a filter at the bottom to prevent the leaves from entering the drinker's mouth. As the mate is passed around, the cebador is responsible for refilling and taking care of the tea.
This communal ceremony is a critical part of the Argentinian social fabric and symbolizes hospitality and sharing. As the mate is passed around, the people in the circle will share stories and conversations, creating a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. Despite that, the tradition of the Mate ceremony is an integral part of Argentinian culture and history. It, therefore, comes with some general rules and etiquette - all of which you'll learn during the workshop!
Being a representation of hospitality, the Mate Ceremony is an opportunity to connect with the people around you and to honor the spirit of camaraderie. While enjoying the beverage, those involved often discuss local politics, life, or even philosophical matters. It is seen as a form of friendship and respect, and it is not uncommon to hear laughter and singing around the table.
The Argentinian Mate ceremony is an integral part of the local culture and a source of social bonding. It is a beloved pastime by many and is sure to provide a unique and memorable experience. In embracing the tradition and participating in a Mate Ceremony, one can better understand the culture and appreciate the connections between people.