Tag Archives: mate

Tereré – mate made cold

I’m totally obsessed with yerba mate. Not only do I like drinking it, but I LOVE to see people with their mate gourds drinking it.  I constantly am on the lookout for people with their gourds.

guy selling nuts and drinking mate

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.

this is the brand I like.

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.

Sheryl rockin the mate, not the new bangs

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.





Grocery shopping in Salta

not exactly Whole foods

Grocery shopping can easily be an all day activity for us.

The store in the photo on the left is where we buy most of our veggies, water, and eggs.  A very woman in an apron always helps me with the Spanish words for the veggies.

If she doesn’t have what we need we go across the street to the man with long sideburns. He also has eggs, some packaged goods, and veggies.  Sometimes for a change I go to the nice older couple. They have a bakery but also eggs,  veggies and two pet parrots.   No matter who I go to, the eggs are never refrigerated, always come wrapped in paper, and they all think it’s hysterical we’re using the eggs for breakfast.

6 eggs wrapped in paper.

Next stop is the butcher for meat, cheese and also sometimes eggs.

And then for everything else there is the supermarket.  The supermarket is pretty much like any other supermarket in the US except for a few differences.

Milk and yogurt come in cartons and boxes, but also bags.

bag of milk
bag of yogurt

The yerba mate aisle is huge.  This entire aisle – all the way to the end-  is for yerba mate.

how many kinds of yerba mate can there be?

The most beautiful part of the grocery store is the shelf after shelf of dulce de leche.


You can even get a one pound bag of dulce de leche.


Then there are the products that make us uncomfortable, like this brand of rice/pasta.

does Diana Ross know about this?

And then there are the products that make us laugh because we’re immature.

this is a sponge.

Can you ever have enough assy power?

this ones a stretch, but we'll laugh at anything.
Who wants a barfy?

clothes for child zombies

And then there is this mannequin. This is not in a supermarket, but I still think it’s funny and slightly frightening.

Staying in Salta

I’m relieved and happy to report that we really love the city of Salta and plan to stay for awhile. After dragging all our suitcases onto the wrong bus to Salta, I really don’t want to go anywhere else for awhile.

Here is my top ten list of what I love about Salta:

1. Beautiful City – there are colonial buildings, parks with palm trees and mountains in the distance.

2. Amazing apartment – I’m sure hardcore travelers/expats can live anywhere, but we’re not hardcore.  We need a nice place with the internet, a couch, and big bed.   We got so lucky with the apartment we’re renting. It has all those things and an amazing deck with a jacuzzi.

view from our apartment

3. Nice people – the people here are super friendly and patient with my lack of Spanish.   The cheek kiss is popular. I find myself cheek kissing 2-3 people a day. (not including Jeff).

4. Small city feel. There are 500,000 people here, but horse drawn carts still go down our street. This one unfortunately had a megaphone.

5. Empanadas (and other delicious foods)

Humita - tamale-like corn dish

6. Good cycling for Jeff -Jeff’s found a great group of guys to ride with.

7. Yerba Mate – we see the gourds everywhere and bags of it sold at the grocery stores. I bought some in tea bags to start.  Tastes good but leaves a nasty green ring in the cup.

8. Interesting cultural stuff – honestly, we haven’t done anything cultural yet.  But here’s a guy just hanging out in a full gaucho outfit talking to someone on a bike.  I’m sure he’s dressed up for a tourist activity, but you have to love the pants.

9. Wine – The town of Salta is in the province of Salta which is known for high altitude wine.  So far all the wine we’ve tried from this area has been good.  We’re hoping to do some trips out to the vineyards soon.

10. Three alfajores for a peso –  How can you not love a town where the bakery down the street sells 3 alfajores (two shortbread cookies with dulce de leche in between) for a peso, the equivalent of a quarter.  And, the nice older couple that own the store talk to me in Spanish every time I go in.

What I don’t like about Salta:

1. Rain – turns out January and February are the rainy season.  Seems like we left Seattle’s rainy winter to go to Salta’s rainy summer.  Ironic isn’t it?

2. Lack of Veggie Variety – this idea of eating what’s local is great until you actually are in a place where you can only get local vegetables.  I dream of  a produce aisle filled with vegetables shipped in from all over the world, carbon footprint be damned.

3. Lack of good coffee – there are lots of places to go out and get good coffee, very hard to buy good beans in the grocery stores.  Instant and robusto beans yes, Arabica not so much.

Luckily, the dislike list is short, and who knows, dislike #3 might just get us to switch to yerba mate full time.

Drinking Yerba Mate

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.

Yerba Mate in San Telmo

On Sundays there is a huge and I mean HUGE street market that stretches from the downtown area for block and blocks down a narrow street to the neighborhood of San Telmo.  San Telmo is famous for the street market, tango bars, and people doing tango in the street.    We actually somehow missed everyone doing tango in the street. Every time we came across someone that looked like they might do tango in the street, they were resting, eating, or standing on a box playing guitar.

The street is so narrow and filled with people that claustrophobia overtook us at one point and we had to go down the street to a cafe for a relaxing cup of coffee. Although for me it wasn’t too relaxing.

The vendors I found the most interesting were the ones selling mate cups and the straws called bombillas.  Yerba mate is a type of drink that Argentinians are crazy for. In the grocery stores there are bags and bags of yerba mate lining the shelves.  You can’t easily get it at restaurants or cafes in Buenos Aires, so we hadn’t really seen it being drunk.

Once I knew what to look for I realized every vendor, no matter what they were selling, was also drinking yerba mate.

On the walk home we passed a park where everyone was also drinking yerba mate. If you look at the guy in the background (the one that’s not Jeff) you can see he’s drinking out of a bombilla.

Makes me want to give up coffee and try mate for awhile….maybe.