Discovering Mate: A Guide to the Popular Beverage in Argentina and Uruguay

Mate, a traditional beverage in Argentina and Uruguay, is known for being an acquired taste. Pronounced “mah-tay,” it is a tea infusion that is ubiquitous in these countries. You will see people from all walks of life, including taxi drivers, old ladies in the streets, lovers in parks, and friends in houses, cradling a little gourd, taking a sip of mate through a bombilla (straw), and passing it around. Mate is particularly popular in the mornings as it contains hefty amounts of caffeine, and there are also supposed health benefits.

The Ritual of Drinking Mate

Drinking mate is highly ritualized, and its conventions and procedures are fixed and never broken. Gringos stirring the tea with the bombilla will be met with Argentineans diving to recover the mate. Here is a guide to drinking mate, including the dos and don’ts, the order of serving, and a glossary.


Mate – The name of the gourd and the drink Bombilla – The straw used to drink mate Yerba – The loose tea that comes in half or full kilo bags Termo – Flask or Thermos Lavado – When the mate is spent and all the taste has gone

How to Make Mate

To make mate, you need to follow a specific process, including:

  • Fill the mate gourd with yerba about two-thirds full.
  • Turn it over and agitate with your hand over the hole to get the dust out.
  • Pour in cold or lukewarm water.
  • Put your thumb over the bombilla and place it at a 45-degree angle into the mate.
  • Pour hot water, not boiling, into the hole made by the bombilla. The water temperature should be between 70–80°C (158-176°F).
  • Pass the mate around in the same order until the bits float on top.

Dos and Don’ts of Drinking Mate

Here are some tips to follow when drinking mate:


  • Be fairly quick with it.
  • Compliment the cebador on the mate.
  • Share it.
  • Take pastries: sweet or savory.


  • Stir the yerba with the bombilla.
  • Suck and slurp too much.
  • Pass the mate around in the wrong order.


Mate is a popular beverage in Argentina and Uruguay that is enjoyed by people of all ages. By following the dos and don’ts of drinking mate, you can enjoy this traditional beverage and be a part of the ritual that surrounds it.

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