Soul-“mate”

18Feb12

One of Argentina’s favorite beverages is probably mate (“MAH-tay”), a tea-like beverage made from a South American relative of the holly plant. To my taste buds, it’s a little bit like a very strong green tea. We’ve seen all kinds of people drinking mate in every possible setting: the cashier was drinking it when I bought vegetables at the corner store. A few days ago we saw a woman drinking mate on the back of a moving motorcycle. And of course we drink lots of mate at church meetings.

Mate on the road

Mate, a traveler's best friend

Drinking mate has certain rules. James and I definitely don’t know all the rules yet (see the Wikipedia article for more details), but here’s what we’ve figured out so far.

First, mate requires special equipment. You need a special cup, also called a mate, to hold the mate leaves. You also need a metal straw, called a bombilla, that has a strainer on the end to filter the tea. And you need a thermos, or termo, to carry your hot water around with you, on your motorcycle or where-have-you.

Second, when you’re with a group, mate should be shared. The entire group uses one mate cup and one bombilla, with each person drinking their own cupful in turn. One person self-designates as the server, preparing the mate cup, pouring the hot water carefully over the leaves, and making sure that everyone gets a chance to drink.

Third, if you want more mate, it doesn’t pay to be polite. Saying “gracias” when someone hands you the mate cup means that you’re done drinking. So when someone offers you the cup, just accept it and sip away.

Drinking tereré

Drinking tereré ("teh-reh-RAY"), a cold version of mate

Mate seems to be an essential part of church meetings. It has a little bit of caffeine to keep everyone awake, and the process of passing the cup offers just enough distraction for folks who get bored easily. But best of all, at least for me, is that it reminds me that even in the minutiae of church business, we can always find opportunities for sharing and collaboration.

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2 Responses to “Soul-“mate””

  1. 1 Charles Feldman

    Hi, James and Marian,

    When you come back to the U.S., you will have to attend Mate Anonymous to overcome your mate addiction. LOL. On a more serious note, I am glad you are having a good time in Argentina and Paraguay. I hope the rest of the year goes well, too.

    Charlie Feldman


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