Latin habbits – “Che, tomamos un mate?”
“Che, tomamos un mate?” – Would you like to drink a mate? This is the question with which the host greets its guests in South America. Who have read Borges probably asked himslef many times what is “el mate “. When do you drink it? How is it prepared? How many kinds of mate there are? And of course which is the ritual?
What is mate? Mate is a tea infusion consumed with passion in Argentina, obsessive in Uruguay, largely in southern Brazil and Paraguay habit borrowed from Lebanon and Syria. I say borrowed because it was wide spread by Syrians and Lebanese who lived for a while in Argentina.
When do you drink mate? From the first hours of the morning until the last hour in the night … with passion and/or obsessive must tell you something. At home, in parks, on the streets, at work, at the market, at a football match, in a show, on vacation, on the beach, on your bike, in the car, on the bus … the long and the short of it, always.
According to historians, mate is the invention of Guarani Indians, later on called “weed of the devil” by the conquerors of South America. The conquerors named it that way because of the
ignorance of traditional practices of the Indians and noting large groups of natives who would gather to drink the magic potion and the time and energy devoted exclusively to this ritual. Also they were amazed how much power and energy the workers after they drink the “magic liquor”. Besides the cultural side, because of “mateinei” that features a greenhouse – like compound digestive and energizing caffeine, mate (scientific called Ílex paraguaiensis )) is considered a medicinal drink. The taste is similar to green tea.
How is it prepared? There is a “sacred” process of preparing the infusion, differing more or less of the area where is enjoyed. Basically you need a ” calabaza ” a hollowed gourd of different sizes, this being the container from which you drink mate; ” one bombilla “, a traditional metal straw with a small strainer at one side, so you can enjoy the taste of mate without ingesting dry plants, a kettle, or nowadays a thermos which facilitates drinking it on the street or park etc ; and of course the tea called mate . What is important to remember is that everyone drinks from the same bombilla.
Depending on the area the consume it, mate can be bitter, sweetened, prepared with milk, iced or with different flavors. Mate’s preparation rests to a local (mateador) which primarily takes care to warm enough but not to boil the water because liquor will not have the same taste. Gourd is filled three -quarters with catnip, then the water is poured in stages, first warm so as not to scald, then sits the grass in a certain position, insert the bombilla perpendicularly and finally pours water until the container is filled. The process is slow but followed religiously by the mateador.
Out of courtesy to those who shares the drink, the mateador will have the first sip to check if the mate is perfect. Then he pours water from a thermos in calabaza and we will share with each one at a time. Everybody will sip all the water in the container and will hand out calabaza to the mateadorul for a refill and serve next. Occasionally the mateador will change the grass and he will the one who decides when the process ends.
The custom of drinking mate site connects friends and close businesses. It is the symbol of friendship, solidarity, generosity, family, twinning, negotiation, jokes, it is the tea which unites and urges cheer and good humor. If a resident invites you to drink mate with them is a sign of respect, of the connection you just created.
A few rules to remember:
Every time I had the opportunity to taste the bitter taste of Argentinean mate I had the feeling to be among friends somewhere thousands of miles away from Romania.
As we pass by life most of us forget to open our eyes and see. Since I put my hand on a camera, I started to see the world in a different way, a way that I couldn’t describe in words. Photography is more than technique and composition. Photography “speaks” through light and shadows about emotions, moments, inner feelings, life style, cultures and customs. It speaks about life, and this is what I love and want to express through my images.