El MateWednesday, February 08, 2006
In Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay and Brazil we drink an enfusion called yerba mate. This tea comes from Ilex paraguayensis (a shrub that is a member of the holly family). Mate has almost as much caffeine as coffee but it also has lots of vitamins and it is high in anti-oxidants. Is is a hunger suppressant. The routine is that each household has only one gourd (also called the mate) and you pass it around most ofen in a clockwise direction. The person who prepares (the verb to prepare is cebar) is the cebador or cebadora. You drink the usually very hot (but not boiling) infusion through a bombilla. You do not slurp. You pass it back to the cebador who prepares it again (by pouring hot water ) and hands it to the next person. If the mate gets cold it is called a mate lavado. It is an insult to offer it as one of the consequences of a mate lavado is that it is a laxative. The mate on the right is about 80 years old as it was my father's mate. The one on the left I bought in Buenos Aires in 2004. For some unknown reason mate in English is always written maté. This is incorrect as we pronounce the word with emphasis in the first syllable. Since the word ends in a vowel, Spanish grammar rules you don't need an accent.