Drinking Yerba Mate

Posted by on December 24, 2010

As I explained in an earlier post, Jeff and I went to the neighborhood of La Bocca for lunch. I order the chinchulines (cow intestines) and couldn’t eat them which caused the waiter great disappointment.   In order to get back into his good graces, we ordered a “service of mate.”

The green tea-like powder that makes up yerba mate is sold in all the grocery stores and the mate container and bombilla straw that you drink it out of is sold in street markets all over Buenos Aires.    When we saw it on the menu we were excited to order it. It’s rarely offered in restaurants, I figured I could get in good with the waiter again.

The service came with a thermos of hot water, a bowl of sugar, a bowl of green tea like herbs, and a silver mate container and silver straw.  The waiter put the straw in, packed the mate full of the herbs, spooned in sugar, and poured hot water over the entire thing.

He gave us very specific instructions. We each take a sip and then pass it to the other person who takes a sip then you pour in more hot water. “Do not, under any circumstances stir or pull out the bombilla (metal straw),” he warned. He made it sound like pulling that straw out would ruin not just  the mate, but perhaps the rest of our trip.    I have to admit I was worried about the straw.

The waiter stood attentively as we tried it. Thank God I liked it and could smile instead of gasp for air.   It tasted really good, somewhere between green and black tea with lots of  sugar.   Satisfied that we wouldn’t mess up the mate service the waiter left our table to stand in the doorway.   He seemed pleased with our mate drinking until Jeff made the mistake of pulling the straw out. The waiter then ran over to fix it.   I’m not sure what he did besides shove the straw back into the cup, but it looked very serious.