Mate (pronounced Maa-tey) is a traditional South American infused drink that is very popular in Uruguay and neighboring countries, particularly in Argentina, Paraguay, southern states of Brazil, south of Chile and the Bolivian Chaco. During my stay in Uruguay, I have seen everyone drinking Mate. People have it at their homes, at the office and even walking around the city.
It is prepared from steeping dried leaves of yerba (pronounced sherba) mate in hot water. As with other brewed herbs, yerba mate leaves are dried, chopped, and ground into a powdery mixture called yerba.Mate is served in a shared hollow calabash gourd and is served with a metal straw. The dried calabash gourd is dried to make it hard and then the outside is wrapped with a leather shell. The straw is called a bombilla in some Latin American countries.
The straw is traditionally made of silver. Modern, commercially available straws are typically made of nickel silver, called Alpaca; stainless steel, or hollow-stemmed cane. 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.
To make the mate, the calabash gourd is filled with the dried leaves of the yerba and then filled with hot water from a thermos. In the workplace, a thermos or kettle is shared among the employees. Using the bombilla straw, mate is slowly sipped and enjoyed. You can see how it looks in the pictures below. I will buy a Mate set this weekend and taste it next week.
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