Tomás mate? “Do you drink mate” Is a question I hear often as a norteamericana.
The photo is of a bombilla (the sifting straw) in grapefruit. The dry yerba mate (leafy substance similar to tea) sometimes has citrus added. V. suggested that we try the yerba mixed with the meat of the pomelo, grapefruit, from her stall.
The water can’t be boiling–that ruins the mate taste. The drink is pronounced “MahTAY.” The tradition is for one maté host/server to get a thermos ready and fill the “mate” (mate container) with hot water for each person sharing. After a person is finished, he or she passes the mate back to the server without saying gracias. “Gracias” is reserved for when a partaker is finished. (Yes–just like the polite finish to a tango!) It is difficult to get used to not saying gracias when someone gives you the mate. Some hosts add a little sugar to take the edge off the yerba. The host also replaces the yerba when it loses the flavor.
At the moment, I am curing my wooden mate. A dried out gourd is often used, but the gourd in our apartment gets wet and soft in the inside when we use it. It seems impossible to sanitize (not that wood is much easier). I placed hot water and yerba mate in the wooden container and am letting it soak to season it. Tomorrow I will repeat the process. Like a seasoned black pan, never wash your mate with soap. It ruins the seasoned residue.
Sharing mate is a ritual to get together with friends and family and enjoy each other’s company.