Before any foreigner heads down to Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, or Brazil, there is one thing they must know about the culture: mate (pronounced mah-tay).
Now, what the hell is mate? Mate is a hot beverage with a high level of caffeine (some argue that is it actually mateine, not caffeine) that is made up of natural yerba mate (the mate herb–pronounced shair-bah) mixed with hot water, and should always be drunk out of a mate gourd using a bombilla (special mate straw– pronounced bom-bee-shah). It is so much more than a drink, though. Here, mate is practically a way of life.
Mate originated out in the campo (country) and was used by gauchos (cowboys) to stay awake and maintain their energy for the day. At one point or another, it became widespread throughout the nation and now it is virtually used in every household. At first glance, it looks like it is either a) an outdated, traditional tea that only really old-fashioned Argentines would drink, or b) some sort of drug. In reality, it is neither, and we cannot stress enough how much of a major part of the culture here is based off of mate. In fact, even the production team here at Bueno, entonces… couldn’t survive without it.
As mentioned before, mate is always drunk out of a special mate gourd and done so through a bombilla (as seen in the photo). The yerba(the actual herb of the plant—it looks a bit like marijuana) is put into the gourd, and then the gourd is filled with hot water to the very top. You then sip the mate through the bombilla, which has a special filter at the bottom to keep you from sucking in the yerba until the water is all gone, then you pass the gourd to be filled (with water–you keep the same yerba until it is completely drained of any caffeine or taste) by the next drinker. It is a communal thing, and, although people drink it by themselves, it is most often shared by a group in which everyone uses the same bombilla. Germs? What germs?
Seriously, take a walk around a park anywhere in Argentina and you are bound to find some mate drinkers.
It. Is. Everywhere.