Every generation has its own features, but in Argentina (and most of the rest of South America), one tradition remains across generations: drinking mate.
“Mate (pronounced /’ma.te/) is a highly caffeinated infusion prepared by steeping dried leaves of yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) in hot water. It is the national drink in Argentina and a common social practice in Paraguay, Uruguay, and parts of Chile and Brazil. Mate is served with a metal straw from a shared hollow calabash gourd. The straw is called a bombilla (…).
The gourd is known as a mate or a guampa, while in Brazil it has the specific name of cuia. Even if the water comes in a very modern thermos, the infusion is traditionally drunk from mates or cuias.
As with other brewed herbs, yerba mate leaves are dried, chopped, and ground into a powdery mixture called yerba. The bombilla acts as both a straw and a sieve. The submerged end is flared, with small holes or slots that allow the brewed liquid in, but block the chunky matter that makes up much of the mixture.”
The nice thing of this practice is not the taste -it is quite bitter unless sugar is added- but the social aspect. In an age where everything is fast, clean and hygienic, it is nice to see a small bowl of non-alcoholic drink go around slowly among friends and family.
Though Argentina is in many aspects still a very developing country, and the overall food culture of late night barbeque, Coca Cola and sugary stuff is not very healthy, we can learn a lot from the strong social bonds.