Yerba mate drinking culture: the 10 most important rituals

In South America in particular, mate tea is much more than just a yellowish-green hot drink with a tart aroma that is enjoyed between meals. Mate tea has a drinking culture all of its own and this is peppered with numerous rituals. People have been drinking mate tea for centuries in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. We tell you what you need to bear in mind, which secrets you didn't know yet and how you can easily bring the mate tea drinking culture home. Let us surprise and inspire you!

Sharing mate tea, as has been the tradition for a long time.

Maté drinking culture with a long history

Even before colonisation, the mate tea drinking culture was celebrated by the South American natives. Especially in the present-day countries of Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay, the benefits of tart tea enjoyment were discovered more than 5000 years ago. Mate tea had a great influence on the further cultural development of the continent. Not only were many plantations established where the holly was cultivated, but the drinking culture also took on a growing importance.

The Guarani Indians discovered yerba mate and over a long period of time perfected the cultivation and the process of consumption. In the beginning, a conventional gourd was filled with water and the leaves were put inside. A simple sugar cane became a straw. Everyone took turns drinking from the one vessel, which was passed around. Belief also played an overriding role. Thus, the Guarani thought that by drinking mate tea they could not only improve their health, but also that they would get the power of the jungle.

Through colonisation, mate tea and its drinking culture also achieved popularity beyond continental borders. In the meantime, the ritual of enjoyment has changed significantly. The gourd has become a calabash - a gourd-like drinking vessel made of leather, silicone, ceramic or stainless steel. A bombilla has since replaced the sugar cane. However, little has changed in the actual drinking culture. Conviviality still plays a major role.

Maté drinking culture as a social highlight

Friends, families or work colleagues like to get together to talk about the day, celebrate birthdays or simply enjoy everyone's presence. Mate tea is a must in South America. For chatting, relaxing and taking a deep breath, the hot cup of tea is like a little wellness holiday. A typical picture also emerges in everyday life. It is not uncommon to see many people with a thermos flask in one hand and a calabash in the other. These accessories are indispensable for every mate lover.

At large gatherings in particular, a calabash is placed in the middle of the round. The host drinks the first infusion - consisting of the mate leaves and hot water - first, as it usually tastes particularly bitter. Then the calabash is infused again and passed around. This is how the mate preparation works for every guest. In Argentina, offering mate tea is considered an invitation to friendship. This is something you must never refuse.

Whether on the road, in the office or at a community gathering, mate tea drinking culture has a higher status in South America than the wake-up cup of coffee.

Drink yerba mate with friends, families or work colleagues

Yerba mate drinking culture: these 10 rituals you should follow

To rebalance your soul after a hard day's work, a cup of mate tea can work wonders. To ensure that you, too, feel calm and balanced, we have put together the ten most important commandments for you, so that you are guaranteed not to put your foot in it.

  1. Yerba mate is not unhygienic: The idea of several people drinking from a calabash and a bombilla is not necessarily euphoric for everyone. However, it is a Mate tradition and is celebrated accordingly. You may think about the idea at most, but never say it openly.
  2. Yerba mate is not bitter: Of course, the leaves of the holly contain bitter substances and the mate drink tastes bitter. In South America, even the youngest children learn that the mate ritual does not involve sweetening, but simply enjoying the bitter taste.
  3. Yerba mate is not slurped: Especially for us Europeans, eating and drinking noises are not necessarily mannerly. But in South America, slurping is normal and is not eyed suspiciously. 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: Of course, the temperature of the mate drink is more than unusual for us. But never get the idea and voice the temperature issue in front of a lover of the tart tea.
  5. Yerba mate is never passed around half-full: If you are handed an infusion, the calabash is drunk empty as a matter of course - regardless of whether the mate tea is too hot or too bitter. It is a sign of friendship that there is never any leftover in it.
  6. The bombilla doesn't clog: And if it does, just don't start removing the leaves yourself as a guest. The host is solely responsible for such inconveniences. After all, you don't want to upset him.
  7. The guests never have priority: Quite unlike our European eating and drinking habits, in South America the host drinks the first infusion himself. This is not a discourtesy, but a sign of appreciation, because the first mate tea is particularly bitter.
  8. Yerba mate must always be passed on: In mate tea drinking culture, many urban legends exist that there have already been deaths when the calabash was held in the hand for too long. Therefore, always make sure that you pass the vessel on immediately after drinking. After all, we don't want to conjure up any misfortune.
  9. Yerba mate must never change direction: It's a thing with superstition. No one knows where it comes from. It is an unwritten law of the mate-tea drinking culture to pass the vessel with the right hand to the right neighbour. Do the same - no one knows what will happen in the other case.
  10. Yerba mate is alcohol-free: Rarely, we can assure you. Occasionally, the host will round off the taste with a traditional liquor in the calabash. But don't worry, this only makes the mate ritual more fun.

Now do you also feel like having a traditional yerba tea? With the right infusion and the appropriate mate accessories, you can create a drinking culture as it is celebrated in Argentina, Brazil or Uruguay. Serve with a few specialities from South America and you'll feel like you're on holiday.

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