The Yerba Mate Drinking Culture: 10 Important Rituals to Follow

Yerba mate is not just a yellowish-green hot drink with a tart aroma enjoyed between meals, especially in South America. The drinking culture of mate tea has a history of more than 5000 years, with numerous rituals that have been perfected over time. In this article, we will share some of the most important rituals to follow when enjoying yerba mate.

Maté Drinking Culture with a Long History

The drinking culture of yerba mate has been celebrated by South American natives long before colonisation. In Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Paraguay, mate tea was discovered more than 5000 years ago, and its benefits were enjoyed between meals. Mate tea had a significant influence on the cultural development of the continent, and it is still important today.

Maté Drinking Culture as a Social Highlight

In South America, mate tea is a must for friends, families, or work colleagues who want to chat, relax, or take a deep breath. A typical picture in everyday life is seeing many people with a thermos flask in one hand and a calabash in the other. The host usually drinks the first infusion, consisting of mate leaves and hot water, as it usually tastes particularly bitter. Then the calabash is infused again and passed around. In Argentina, offering mate tea is considered an invitation to friendship.

Yerba Mate Drinking Culture: 10 Rituals to Follow

  1. Yerba mate is not unhygienic. The idea of several people drinking from a calabash and a bombilla may not be appealing to everyone, but it is a mate tradition that is celebrated accordingly.
  2. Yerba mate is not bitter. Although the leaves of the holly contain bitter substances, in South America, even young children learn that the mate ritual does not involve sweetening, but simply enjoying the bitter taste.
  3. Yerba mate is not slurped. In South America, slurping is normal and is not considered rude. You can participate in it as a matter of course and simply accept that the drinking ritual is noisier.
  4. Yerba mate is not hot. The temperature of the mate drink may be unusual for some, but it is not recommended to voice any concerns about it.
  5. Yerba mate is never passed around half-full. The calabash is always drunk empty, regardless of whether the mate tea is too hot or too bitter. This is a sign of friendship.
  6. The bombilla does not clog. If it does, guests should not attempt to remove the leaves themselves, as the host is solely responsible for such inconveniences.
  7. The guests never have priority. In South America, the host drinks the first infusion himself, as a sign of appreciation because the first mate tea is particularly bitter.
  8. Yerba mate must always be passed on. Many urban legends exist in mate tea drinking culture that holding the calabash for too long has resulted in deaths. Therefore, always make sure to pass the vessel on immediately after drinking.
  9. Yerba mate must never change direction. In South American mate tea culture, there is a superstition that the calabash should never change direction when it is being passed around.
  10. Enjoy yerba mate with friends and family, and let the drinking culture surprise and inspire you.


Yerba mate drinking culture is more than just a hot drink, and it has numerous rituals that have been perfected over time. By following these 10 important rituals, you can enjoy yerba mate like a true South American and experience the social highlight that it is.

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