Saturday, September 5, 2009

Yerba Mate

I would be remiss if I did not tell you about yerba mate (pronounced like mah-tay) while in Uruguay. Yerba mate is the favorite drink of all of Uruguay. You can't walk down the street without seeing tons of people clutching their mate gear and sipping this warm drink all day long.

Yerba is a kind of plant with caffeine like properties that is ground up and scooped into a gourd. Then hot water is poured into the gourd, and the mixture produces a bitter tea-like drink. (You best like your mate "amargo" or bitter, because adding sugar is cheating, and you will be made fun of by any real Uruguayan). This potent beverage is then drunk using a metal straw that has little holes in the bottom (called a bombilla) to filter the yerba.

Mate is often passed around in social circles to be shared with the whole group. It is the central bonding element between friends and family. It connects people together. Drinking mate is as much about loving the taste as it is about loving the tradition.

Mate is more than a drink; it's an obsession. It is a beautiful cultural symbol of the Uruguayan people.

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