RED Hearts: Traditional Argentine Mate

RED Hearts are guests posts on I Heart Daily from the authors of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today. Today's RED Hearts post is from Zoe Mendelson, 20, currently studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina, who loves a new drink with a metal straw:

Here in Buenos Aires, they look at you funny if you ask for your coffee to go. They’ll giggle at the silly tourist if they see you walking around holding a little paper cup. This seems odd to me, considering their beverage of choice involves carrying a container of loose leaves, a gourd, a metal straw and a giant thermos of hot water.

If you’re a North American who wants to try a hot drink with more ritual than anything you get at Starbucks, two things to know -- it’s pronounced mah-tay, and you can get a whole range of products here (I recommend the plain loose mate leaves).

Yerba mate, the plant from which mate is prepared, is a species of holly. The leaves and parts of the branches are dried and steeped in hot water inside a gourd and sipped from a metal straw that has a filter at the bottom. It has more caffeine than coffee, and more antioxidants than green tea.

But what’s really special about it is that mate is for sharing. One person pours the water and then hands it to the person on their right. That person then drinks it and hands the cup back to the server, who fills it for the next person. Everyone shares the same straw and nobody bats an eye.

Mate has a strong, bitter, vegetal flavor that takes some getting used to. But don’t worry, the Argentines aren’t averse to adding sugar. “Mate dulce, para amarga es la vida,” they say, which means, “Sweet mate, for life is bitter.”

Red hearts logo RED Hearts guest poster Zoe Mendelson is an author of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today, which is out in paperback.