The Cebador hands me the cuia, I pause for a moment and think about everything I have learned. I slowly extend my right hand looking him in the eyes and giving him a slight nod. I take the first drink from the bombilla careful not to move it around but instead let it sit stiffly in the packed herbal mixture. I drink it all in a short amount of time – trying to suck and slurp the last bit of liquid from the herbs. Once I’ve finished I hand it back to the cebador with the bombilla pointing towards him and don’t say a word.
Now I’m one step closer to fitting into Patagonia culture – I can officially call myself a mate drinker.
You can’t miss the mate culture in Patagonia (pronounced maa-tay)– the cuia’s (gourds that the mate is drank out of) are sold everywhere in the markets. You’ll also notice huge displays of metal straws that are used in the mate. And finally – if you look closely, you’ll probably see people of all ages walking around towns with a thermos of warm water. All of these things are key to mate – the official drink of Patagonia.
Mate is basically a traditional herbal mixture served with hot water. I always found it slightly bitter tasting, however I did learn that in some areas it’s served sweet. What makes mate so unique is that it’s complicated – and yes, complicated things are cool in my opinion. There are a number of rules and traditions associated with drinking mate – which makes it slightly intimidating at first...
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