Monday, 11 April 2011

My "Mate" Experience

As you already know, a couple of weeks ago, I went to Zwolle to meet Aledys.
I didn't know she had prepared a big surprise for me: my first mate experience.

I asked her to tell you the whole story. ;-) The "bolds" are mine ;-)

The initial plan: a lazy day in Zwolle

From Zwolle

"A few days ago my friend Sandra came to Zwolle for a visit. The plan was to have a lazy lunch and walk around town a little. Since we were having a spell of nice weather with lots of sun and clear sky, I thought it would be a good idea to sit somewhere nice near the water in the city centre and have a bit of a picnic.

Sandra is always very receptive and enthusiastic about discovering traditions and habits from other parts of the world, so I came up with a little surprise for her. Before leaving the house, I boiled some water and poured it into a thermos flask I brought from Argentina. What surprise did I have in mind? Well, pouring Sandra some mates, of course!"

Mate: Argentina's national drink

(Aledys photo: some years ago in her first house in Zwolle)

"Mate (pronounced MAH-teh, stressing the first syllable, not the last as I see it written everywhere) is Argentina's national drink, but it is not just any drink, something you pour when you are thirsty and then forget about. Mate is for an Argentine his or her best friend when he or she is at home alone studying, working or relaxing. Preparing the mate, pouring it, holding the gourd in your hand, sipping it slowly - the whole ritual is comforting and it gives an immediate sense of well being that, originating in your brain, spreads then through your body."

Mate: a traditional social occasion
"But mate is the drink you serve when you are entertaining at home, always the first thing you offer and is accepted by your guests. Also, if you are off to spend the day at the beach or by the pool, the mate gear is the first thing that you want to pack and God may help you if, upon arriving at your destination, you discover you have forgotten to take it with you! You will be despised and blamed by your companions relentlessly - for about five whole minutes!"

Mate equipment

(Aledys photo: her gourd collection)

"Because mate is such an important part of our everyday lives back in Argentina, I thought that Sandra would be interested in tasting it and hearing all about it. In order to prepare and pour this infusion you need a bit of equipment: the thermos flask for the hot water, the yerba mate or dry leaves to be brewed some sugar, the gourd to pour it in (also called mate) and the metal filter straw. You can also add other herbs to the mate or even orange or lemon peel to give it a citrus flavour."

The mysterious leather case

From Zwolle

"Once I had collected and prepared all these elements, I had to put them somewhere to transport them safely. And that is when my mysterious magic leather case came in handy. In Argentina you can find special cases made for the sole purpose of carrying the mate implements, and last year during my holiday in Argentina, I bought a very nice one made from carpincho or capibara skin."

The moments before my first mate experience. No clue at all...

"When Sandra saw my fancy case, she immediately got curious but I was determined not to give away what was in it until the moment was right.
After lunch in "La Meridiana", an Italian restaurant on the Melkmarkt, opposite the Grote Kerk, we walked around and I took her to see the Zwolse Balletjeshuis, where they sell these special old fashioned sweets typical of Zwolle. Unfortunately the shop was closed, but we managed to find some balletjes in the Tourist Information Office or VVV right next to the Grote Kerk."

I don't take drugs. What is she doing?!
Preparing the mate, of course ;-)

"Finally, the moment to open the mysterious leather case arrived. We sat by the canal, I opened the case, took the thermos out -nothing odd there, maybe it was coffee? tea? spirits?- and then out came the tumbler containing the dry leaves of yerba mate and I started preparing the drink. First I took the special mate gourd, filled 3/4 of it with the yerba, then shook it a bit to bring the dust of the yerba to the top. Then I placed the metal filter straw to one side and I also added a pinch of peppermint leaves to give it more taste. Instead of sugar I normally use sweetener so I added some of that and then poured the hot water. The first mate is always for the cebador (the person pouring it) to make sure it is prepared correctly, so I had the first one and I made sure it was ok. Then, I poured again and passed it to Sandra. What did Sandra think of it?"

The Mate circles

"Well, I am sure that it tasted quite strange to her, probably! Drinking mate is an acquired taste and the first few sips or the first few rounds of mate will definitely taste a bit too strong and probably bitter but it gets better the more times you drink it. We, Argentines, start drinking it at an early age and some of us don't even get to really like it, but because it is usually done socially, we always join in the mate circles while spending time with friends or family."

Mate's health benefits

"I can go on and on talking about mate drinking since the ritual has its own etiquette and the manner of preparing and pouring it varies from region to region. It also has a number of health benefits, since it is an excellent antioxidant, protects the immune system and is an energy booster. I will definitely come back on the subject of mate drinking in future posts.
I am not sure what Sandra thought of those first sips of mate, but I do know that she was rather impressed with the ritual and the health benefits that yerba mate offers. So, can you guess what I am giving her for her birthday this year?"

(Aledys photo: some mate packs)

Oh! A cadeautje...:-)) Thank you, Aledys!
And yes, I liked to drink the mate very much! ;-)
Very refreshing in the Summer!

And you, dear readers? Have you heard about mate before? Have you already tasted it?


Aledys Ver said...

:D I think those guys sitting near us were tempted to come over to where we were and ask to try the "mates"! :D Glad you liked the surprise!!

Presépio no Canal said...

I think so ;-))) Wishful thinking! ;-))
Beijinhos!! ;-)

Ana said...

Lovely post! Do we have a mate convert here? :) Sandra, you're ready for the next step: locro and asado con cuero :)

Presépio no Canal said...

Um assadito! Love it!!
Aledys!!! Is the locro and the asado con cuero ready?

Aledys Ver said...

For the locro, I had to "smuggle" a kilo and a half of corn grains (white, dry, that you can't find here) last year so that my friend Mónica could make "locro" for the Argies in Dutchland party! :D
FOr the "asadito" you'll have to come over to Córdoba, and ask my dad to make you one! :D How's your agenda for October? Want to come along?

Presépio no Canal said...

A homemade assadito by your father, of course!!!! As we say in Portuguese: "Se eu pudesse, era ja amanha."
Meanwhile, I will be dreaming with it ;-)

Margarida Elias said...

Que experiência interessante de que nunca tinha ouvido falar. É do género do chá?... bj!

Presépio no Canal said...

E parecido, sim, Margarida! :-) Foi isso mesmo que disse a Aledys! Se calhar tambem servem nos restaurantes argentinos. Sera?

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

MATE IS FABULOUS! I have had it with CHOCOLATE!!! IT IS WONDERFUL. Oh dearest, what fun!!! Anita

Aledys Ver said...

Yes, "Mate" is also drunk in southern Brazil - there it is known as "cha-mate" or "chimarrão" :D

"Mate" with chocolate? :D Never tried!! How did it work?

Sara said...

Já tinha ouvido falar, mas nunca experimentei.
Toda a experiência pareceu sensacional, digna de registo, sem dúvida :)
Beijinhos e boa semana!

bikim said...

que máximo! pelo que percebi é a mesma erva mate que compro numa loja brasileira e com a qual faço chá! uma delicia!
não conhecia bem esta erva! adorei! sempre pensei que fosse única da floresta amazónica! será que é a mesma coisa?! adorei ler este post! quero que saibas que não me esqueci do award e que sairá um dia destes! de resto, por cá está tudo com as calças na mão , como se diz!, á espera do que vem aí!!!
belas fotos! espero que esteja tudo bem e que o sol te tenha animado! valh-nos S. Pedro! que por cá tivemos hoje e nos outros dias 28º

Presépio no Canal said...

A chuva e o frio vieram visitar-nos outra vez! :-(
Mas a minha constipacao ja passou. Espero nao recair com outra mudanca de temperatura.
Bjs! E tudo a correr o melhor possivel, tendo em conta as circunstancias...

Have you Ever?? said...

Wow Loved your blog and posts as well, keep them coming.

About Mate, as a good Brazilian, yes we know it all, tastes awesome :D


Presépio no Canal said...

Obrigada, Deborah :-) Fiquei contente por teres gostado! Tambem te irei visitar!

ana said...

Gostei imenso da descrição da bebida que nunca tomei. Pareceu-me que deve ser delicioso!
Muito interessante, aprendi coisas novas.
Bjs. :)

MissNeriss said...

I had a quiz question yesterday: Where does Mate come from?

I knew the answer, thanks to this post!

Presépio no Canal said...

@Neriss: :-)) I'm glad to hear that! Cheers!