Argentina Culture – What is Mate?

MATE is embraced by all Argentina. If you wander around the streets and towns of Argentina, you will almost never  go a day without someone drinking mate or carrying their mate and a thermos around, or seeing someone at the park with their friends and family sharing mate. So what the heck is mate with the weird looking ‘cups’ and the weird looking ‘straws’ (bombillas)? I am here to tell you!


Mate may look like a tea it also might look like marijuana. Well, it is neither of those in all honesty. However, it is funny that I mention this (short story), when I was walking around Lima recently with my mate, I entered a store. A security guard told me I could not bring it with me. I told him, “no, it is okay, it is just ‘Yerba'”……Well, guess what Yerba means in Peru….marijuana… Okay!

You place the yerba (dried mate leaves) in the mate (cup) and then slowly infuse it with hot water. The mate (cup), is traditionally made out of a small gourd, and the bombilla (the straw), is made out of silver, or in most cases nickel silver. This drink is most popular in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Parts of southern Chile, and southern parts of Bolivia, and lastly Syria.


The indigenous people, the Guarani, were said to be the first ones to drink this iconic drink, and was spread by the Tupi.


Preparation to Mate is easy! There are various types as well. There are the glass mates, wooden mates, and a few others to mention, but I am going to stick to the regular and glass mates.

To start, you fill your mate about half way.

Next, you tilt your mate to an angle and shake it allowing for the small dust particles to separate and settle away from the bottom, so it does not get sucked up your bombilla (straw). Then without evening it out, you slowly place the mate right side up, and walah, you add hot water and you are ready to go.

*NOTE* Do not stir with the bombilla. This will cause the yerba particles to get stuck in your straw, and it is not a smoothie, sooo don’t do it.

Culture – how to properly drink it

The culture of drinking mate is typically drank in groups. The server pours himself/herself the first round. You sip on it eating cookies as well until you hear the end of the slurping. This means you pour another round, and pass it around the circle/group. You continue this process until you no longer want to drink mate.

Some Portenos that I met in Iguazu. We shared mate every night. 

Check out that chubby face of mine…wooh, I gained some weight on that trip! 

To end your drinking experience, you say “gracias”. This means thank you, I am done for this experience.

When I first drank mate I said thank you. The server quickly told me not to say that if I still wanted to drink more. Me, from the Midwest say thank you all the time, due to our exceptional manners 😉

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed and learned a little bit about mate. If you have some fun mate experiences, or have tried different types of yerba that you recommend, let me know!


Worldwide Chris

Published by WorldWideChris

An adventurous soul who takes life by the horns, who isn't afraid to fail, and who learns from his failures. I studied Environmental Sciences at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh with a Spanish minor. I posses a burning passion for the Hispanic culture. The outdoors is where you will find me. If I am not outdoors, I am either writing, reading, running or studying something always pushing myself to learn. Connecting with others is something I enjoy very much through social and community engagement and life coaching. I want to be a part of something bigger than myself. Cheers!

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