Our new friends from Argentina are going home, as summer polo season is about over here in the West and they left with us a special gift this year, a matero (a bag for holding a the mate gourd, the yerba mate and a thermos).  The also left a leather covered mate gourd, which we added to our small collection, but this mate is the one we reach for every morning now, as it is the perfect size and it is of the best quality.

Yerba mate is consumed all over South America in place of tea or coffee, or in addition to it.  It has an earthy taste, like green tea, though sometimes slightly more bitter taste due to the high tannin content of the leaves, which are a member of the holly family.  We were introduced to it at polo from the Argentines, and I love it.  Oprah’s doctor promotes it as the only healthy caffinated beverage and studies seem to indicate it significantly reduces cholesterol, especially when brewed with hot water, but not boiling, as is the traditional way.  Yerba mate con polo, with a higher amount of sticks and stems, will typically have more of a woodsy taste than pure leaf mate.  Some add sugar and milk, particularly for children.

You add hot water (never boiling) to the yerba mate, which is traditionally drunk from a gourd with a bombilla straw, and as the tea and be steeped multiple times, it is perfect for sharing with friends.  Each cup is consumed and then the gourd is passed back to the maker of the tea for a refill of hot water and then it is passed on to the next drinker, when the person say “Gracias” which signifies that they have had enough mate.  Please don’t make the gringo mistake of touching or stirring the straw, which usually clogs the straw.  Just sip and enjoy.

There are more than 200 brands.  Our favorites are La Tranquera, Rosemonte Suave con palo, Rosemonte con palo, and Rosemonte Especiale con palo.  They are even flavored brands, including orange.  Our friends prefer Cruz de Malta, which is another top brand.

Gracias para la mate y matero amigos.  And Ciao for now!  We hope to see you again in Argentina soon.