It's Argentina's coffee. Everyone drinks it; every day at the hospital we start the day with maté and pastries, and you can guarantee that if you see someone studying, a cup of maté and a medialuna (croissant) will be within arms' reach. It's a stimulant; though as I learned in Mendoza, it's not actually caffeine based, the drug is called 'matiena' and is specific to the yerba maté plant. It's bitter; like Fernet, mate is exceptionally bitter, and most of the time it's drunk on it's own, though in the mornings it's acceptable to add sugar.
Most importantly, it's a social drink; unlike coffee, maté has very specific customs that accompany it. If you're drinking it with someone else, or a large group of people, then one person is designated the 'maté server' (cebador) and is always responsible for pouring the cup. Generally, after filling the maté gourd, the cebador takes the first drink (I think because the first cup is the most bitter, and therefore worst), refills the gourd with hot water from a thermos and then passes it to the next person in the circle. It continues going around the circle (always filled by the cebador) pretty much indefinitely.
A few rules; When you drink maté you must finish the cup before returning it to the cebador, you should not stir the metal straw (called a bombilla) and generally only touch it with your mouth. Also, if you are not the cebador, don't reach for the thermos- it's rude to try and pour your own cup. I learned that the hard way when I first came to the hospital.
The reason I'm posting about maté is because today I was the cebador. Haha, I'm surprised that in a month of being here I hadn't done it before, but when I told Dr. Marienelli I had not, he insisted on taking a picture. I'm planning on bringing a few gourds and some maté home, so, dear reader, when I see you next, remind me and we can drink maté together.
|A momentous occasion.|
P.S. I also want to say that throughout this whole blog I've been neglecting accents because I'm an exceptionally lazy typist, but in reality Cordoba is Córdoba (Cor′do•ba), so please excuse my Spanish.