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It might seem very bitter at first, but you’ll soon get used to the taste of our beloved herbal drink, and after taking part in a few rounds with friends, you’ll be crying out for it. Follow our advice and we’ll make you into an expert “cebador” - the person who serves the mate to the group.
To make sure your mates have the right temperature, ensure that the water is neither boiling nor lukewarm. The ideal range is between 70º and 80ºC (158º - 176ºF). Sticklers for tradition will tell you to use a kettle on the hob, while the more modern among us will opt for an electric kettle, which might even have a “mate” setting to make things easier.
Yerba mate is a plant grown in the north of Argentina, and when you’re pouring the dried leaves from the packet into the mate you need just the right amount; you don’t want the mate to overflow, but you don’t want it empty either. Using your eye as a guide (forget about using a measure), fill the recipient three quarters full, then cover it with your free hand, tip it upside down, give it a shake, and blow off the dust that sticks to your hand (remember this part otherwise you’ll stain the first thing you touch.)
Now tilt the mate so that the yerba rests on one side, and slowly pour a little water into the space created. We restate that, in order to avoid burning the yerba and reducing its flavour, the water shouldn’t be boiling! Let it rest for a moment before moving on.
If this bit goes well, you’re ready to declare yourself a true Porteño! The bombilla is the metal straw used to drink the infusion and it should be placed into the moist area of the yerba where you poured the water. One practical tip: cover the mouthpiece with your thumb as you plunge it in; that way you’ll avoid failing the exam by blocking the bombilla with pieces of yerba.
Now we’re ready to start serving. Pour a little water each time and always in the same part of the mate where the bombilla is placed to make it last as long as possible. Note that the same person retains the duty of cebador, or brewer, throughout the round. If someone has the cheek to take the flask and serve himself, they deserve to be expelled from the round!.
Once the round’s begun it’s crucial to respect the order of turns on the mate. It’s the brewer’s job to remember whose turn it is and avoid skipping anyone. A few pastries in the centre of the round and we’re all set. Throw in a healthy dose of affection, relax and celebrate the moment of sharing a few mates with good company.
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