As a self-confessed tea addict I am absolutely fascinated by the tea situation in Argentina. Now I’m all for travelling with tea – teabags being one of the ´luxury´ items I squeezed into my backpack – but Argentinians take their love of ´mate´ to the extreme by carrying their own flasks around.
The mate-making process is a complex one, first the mate leaves are poured into a special cup, which is then shook to loosen the leaves and allow the hot water which is poured over them to be infused. The mate is then drunk through a metal straw, with a strainer attached to the end of it. In summer the hot water is replaced by a flavoured juice but the method remains the same.
The thing I love the most about mate is the way it brings people together. Everywhere you go in Argentina you see old ladies gossiping in the street over it, shopkeepers talking business with it and couples sharing a cup of it. Talking to an Argentinian about their love for it, she told me that the sharing aspect of mate is very important. She explained that it’s common to invite friends over for mate and fracturas (yummy pastries) and the host is always the person who pours the water from the flask.
But I’ve also seem mate bring absolute strangers together. My favourite memory of it was on a long bus journey when two middle-aged men sat next to each other, just opposite me. They introduced themselves and started chatting and by the end of the trip they were sharing a cup of mate between them. See, as I’ve always said, tea really does make the world a better place!