Argentina celebrates the National Mate Day this Tuesday, November 30, to honor the most consumed infusion of the South American country, taken in different regions by all social classes, being a characteristic symbol of the local culture.
Although it is true that each person has their own style in the preparation, there are general guidelines to prime (serve) a good mate. The first thing you need is the container, named after the eponymous drink, or potter. It can be made of various materials, such as wood, glass or metal. However, the preferred par excellence for Argentines is the ‘porongo’, made with pumpkin.
This container, often handmade, is accompanied by its respective light bulb, metallic in most cases, although there are also cane. Its use is similar to that of a straw, and it is used to suck up the hot liquid.
Then you have to place the Herb inside the mate, or pot. Its quantity depends on the preferences of the primer, although it is recommended that it not overflow, occupying 3/4 of the total. Those who know, cover the hole with the palm of one hand and mix the yerba, making sure it is inclined at about 45 degrees. Anyway, the vast majority simply introduce the green product, without much preamble or special techniques.
Finally, the Water, at an ideal temperature of 80 degrees. It is very important that it does not boil, so as not to ruin the infusion.
When drinking mate, the light bulb serves as a filter, preventing the passage of the yerba. Likewise, several choose to spit out the first few drinks, to make sure they do not take the herbal powder, which can come in the product package.
Anyway, those who opt for a more rigorous assembly, can find many tutorials on the Internet.
A custom with more than 500 years
In 2014, Congress decided to establish the matero celebration to honor an infusion that has been consumed in the region for 500 years, long before the existence of Argentina as a State.
The date of November 30 was established by the birth of the Guaraní commander Andrés Guacurarí, known as ‘Andresito’, the first and only indigenous governor in local history, who served in what is now the province of Misiones.
According to the historian Pablo Camogli, this aboriginal leader was characterized by having projected a market and commercial circuit for yerba mate, with the Guarani as the main actors and direct beneficiaries of the transaction. At the military level, ‘Andresito’ received the training of the revolutionary leader José Gervasio Artigas, a protagonist in the independence of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata, and both defended a project parallel to the centralism of Buenos Aires.
Now, to celebrate this date, the National Institute of Yerba Mate (INYM) organized the Mate Rock 2021, in the city of Posadas, located in the herbal province of Misiones. From 6 pm (local time), with thermos and mate in hand, the public will be able to enjoy the opening show, with singers such as David Lebón standing out.
Although many take it alone, when we speak of this infusion we refer to a tradition linked to the act of sharing. A tip for newbies: in the rounds, if someone tells you “Thank you” to the primer, it is because he no longer wants to take more. Knowing these strange codes is key to not being surprised, because in Argentina meeting with friends and family to drink mate is as common as breathing, using the same bulb by several people.
Faced with this, in the framework of the pandemic, the health authorities set off all the alarms for being a high source of contagions. Then, campaigns were launched encouraging each citizen to carry their own pot equipment, so as not to mix the saliva of other drinkers.
Among the precautions, some doctors warn that if it is taken very hot, it can cause tongue cancer, like any other infusion. The thing is, Argentines drink mate at all times, even while driving. Therefore, at the time of obtaining the license, the authorities insist on stopping drinking while driving, and mark it as a dangerous distracting element.
Likewise, there are numerous studies that highlight many health benefits, being used as a effective antioxidant, antidepressant and also a natural stimulant, among other qualities. In fact, when sleep invades, not a few Argentines wake up more with a drink of mate than with a coffee.
Whether for this or another reason, the truth is that in many places it is impossible to walk without running into someone ‘mateando’. This is noticeable, above all, in cities with access to the sea, the river or a lagoon: nothing like a rich ‘mateada’ walking along the waterfront, looking at the horizon. In fact, the fanaticism is so great that some bars went as far as offering it as part of the menu, being a ritual that adapts to any context.
Thus, as might be expected, the Latin American country stars in production worldwide. According to INYM figures, from 2017 to the present, the annual production for the domestic market exceeded the 260 million kilos, and this year it is very possible that that amount will grow widely.
As for exports, the figure ranges between 31 million and 43 million kilograms, depending on the year. As a curiosity, it stands out that Syria is the main buyer, with 65%, affirms the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INDEC).
At the regional level, consumption is not limited only to the Argentine borders. Uruguay, the neighboring country, is known for being the main ‘per capita’ drinker in the world, despite not having its own plantations, except for some producers. People can also be found drinking mate in southern Brazil and, of course, in Paraguay.
In Argentina, it is consumed in 90% of households, or more.
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