We’ve been invited to drink it with others several times now. When this happens I am so torn. I’m always dying to drink mate with Argentinians but, I can’t drink hot stuff. It burns my throat, lips, tongue. I can’t even fake it and just pretend to take a sip. When you are handed a gourd of mate, it’s polite to drink the entire gourd, no matter that you might be setting your throat on fire. I always go home from mate drinking with a mouth so burnt I can’t taste anything for a week.
So, when our friends Nati and Frankie suggested a picnic in the park, I was super excited for several reasons.
1. Nati and Frankie are really cool and fun to hang out with. Moving around always makes us the new kids on the block, and my poor Spanish makes me the dumb new kid on the block. So it’s really fun to have friends.
2. Frankie is from New Jersey and Nati is from Paraguay but spent a lot of time in the US, so the picnic would be conducted in English.
3. There was a rumor of guacamole filled deviled eggs. Not a traditional dish of Argentina, but you can’t eat steak at every meal.
4. Nati was going to show me how to make tereré which is cold yerba mate, something that is very popular in Paraguay.
First, we ate the eggs (among other things). To say guacamole filled boiled eggs are good is like saying there is a little bit of meat eating going on in Argentina. They rank right up there with dulce de leche (the best food in the entire world). If there is such a thing as guacamole-deviled egg rehab I will soon be checking in. These things were addictive.
Then after eating we got down to the business of making the tereré. Preparing tereré is similar to preparing yerba mate except you use cold water instead of hot. First, Nati filled my gourd with the yerba.
I really like the kind that comes with stems and twigs.
I’ve read online how the bombilla (fancy metal straw) has to go in a certain way. Nati showed me how you put it in when the gourd is half full.
For sweeteners you can do several things. You can drink it without sugar. You can add sugar, or you can add stevia. Nati had bought stevia in it’s natural form at the market and we added that. It was sweet but not refined sugar. Then she also added chamomile but explained that you can add any other herbs you want.
Then we added cold water. In Paraguay the water is usually ice cold, but since I didn’t have a cooler the water was sort of room temperature. But,still about 100 degrees cooler than boiling hot water.
And then we did something that would strike terror in most Americans. WE ALL DRANK FROM THE SAME STRAW! That is the way you drink yerba mate. Drinking yerba mate hot or cold is a social thing. Sharing the gourd and straw is part of the mate drinking. The head mate maker fills the gourd then passes it to someone. That person drinks the entire gourd hands it back, the head honcho fills it again passes it to the next person etc. There is no Purell. There is no sterilization, there is no switching out straws. Everyone shares the same gourd and straw.
Here’s the thing. You drink this with friend and family. It’s not like some stranger off the street is going to hand you a mate . If they are friends and family, you’ve already cheek kissed them and shaken their hand. You already shared germs. What’s a little shared mate drinking? And, I think if people are sick they don’t partake. We were at a picnic and someone said they had a cold, so they didn’t want the gourd passed to them.
So tererè is my new favorite drink. It goes down really easy on a hot day. It’s really fun to drink with friends, and it tastes really good. The only problem is that I now drink a lot of tereré but haven’t given up my coffee habit. It’s not a problem until 3:00am when I’m wide awake and have no idea why. Then I remember that I’ve had several cups of coffee and several gourds of yerba mate during the day.
Here’s a video of us drinking it. It was little boring, like watching people drink coffee, so I added music to liven it up. Now it sounds like we’ll be passing the mate to Benny Hill next.