When traveling through Argentina, you will notice many Argentines will gather for a big steak dinner and endless bottles of Argentina wine at their local parrilla (steak restaurant).  When not eating dinner and drinking a delicious Malbec, Argentines will exchange their wine glass for a tiny gourd filled with herbs and hot water also known as Mate (pronounced “MAH-tay”).  Whether from Buenos Aires or Mendoza, Argentines enjoy this herbal drink throughout the day.  If you are looking for a traditional Argentine drink to enjoy before noon, try the mate!

Mate comes from the yerba plant, which is grown Argentina and other countries in South America.  The leaves are harvested and then dried to create the “yerba” used for the tea.   The “yerba” is placed in a traditional calabash gourd and then infused with hot water.  Some other mate gourd styles include those made of wood, ceramic, or metal.  When traveling in Buenos Aires you can visit the fairs in Recoleta or San Telmo and you will see endless stands full of different styles of mate gourds to choose from.

Although it is probably not the main reason Argentines drink it, mate has many health benefits.  It has many vitamins including A, C, E, B1, B2, Niacin and minerals such as Calcium, Manganese, Iron, Selenium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, and Zinc.  It is also a natural source of caffeine.  Studies have shown that the caffeine in mate is unique.  Unlike caffeine found in coffee, which is a stimulant, the caffeine in mate has been shown to have some relaxing properties on muscle tissues.

Mate is a very social drink.  When friends meet in the beautiful parks in Palermo or are hanging out in Tigre for a long summer weekend, mate is almost always involved.  One Mate is shared and passed around the circle of friends.  One person is responsible for preparing the mate (called the “cebador”) and refilling it with hot water after each person drinks.  So before you head off to your Buenos Aires wine tasting that evening, grab a gourd and a few friends and enjoy some mate!