Passing through Argentina we’ve been amused and slightly bemused by the Argentinians’ near obsession with their national drink; Yerba Matè. To describe it simply as a tea made predominantly from the dried leaves of the Yerba plant, that argentinians seem to drink morning noon and night is too prosaic. As we Irish might just think ” so they like their tea just like us”. They don’t just like their tea, they are obsessed with it.
Yerba Maté is drunk through a metal straw, from a wooden or pewter handle-less mug. Unlike Irish, Chinese, or any other tea, tisane, or infusion that I can think of, a serving of Maté is not brewed in a pot or in a cup with a bag. Instead, you fill your cup with leaves and then top the cup up with hot water a sip at a time from a thermos flask. This makes it quite labour intensive as you can’t just brew up a nice pot and sit back and relax as you have to keep refilling your cup every time you take a sip.
Argentinians don’t seem to let anything get in the way of their Maté drinking and we’ve had many a chuckle at bus drivers, policemen, checkout girls and shop attendants trying to work one handed encumbered with a maté cup in hand and a flask tucked under their arm.
Once we tried it, though, we could almost see what the fuss is about, its a refreshing blend of anise, peppermint and verbena and dried leaves from the Yerba plant and it tastes not unlike an aromatic green tea. Contrary to what you might think, drinking little hot sips of it through a silver straw is actually quite cooling and the ritual packing of the cup with tea, topping up with a little hot water and puffing on the silver straw has all of the relaxing benefits of smoking a pipe.
Wikipedia has more…