Posted in Kafevend Blog
As I wondered which nation's drinking habits to delve into this week, it occurred to me that Argentina would be a natural choice given the recent appointment of new pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis and the first pontiff to come from outside Europe in well over a thousand years. It would appear that the Vatican larder may need to be stocked with a tea called mate, pronounced ma-tay.
Made with yerba mate, which despite its name is not a herb but a shrub which grows into a tree, mate is a popular drink throughout Argentina and several other South American countries. Its status as a staple of the Argentinian diet is confirmed by its inclusion in the collection of retail products used to measure inflation. Rather than cup, saucer and teapot, a gourd and bombilla are key to its preparation. Hot but not boiling water is poured over the dried and chopped up yerba mate, left to infuse and then drunk through a bombilla, which is a metal straw with a strainer at one end. Sugar can be added as it is quite a bitter drink. Mate is often enjoyed socially and the gourd is passed around and friends drink from the same bombilla.
As with other infusions this is a drink with a host of health benefits ascribed to it. Many people drink it outside of Argentina these days to help with weight loss. As well as containing a variety of vitamins and minerals, it has antioxidant properties. Mate has long been used to aid digestion, as an anti-inflammatory and to improve concentration and memory. It is also said to boost the immune system, lower blood pressure and strengthen the heart. Many of its traditional uses have been backed up by recent research, so while Pope Francis is already 76 years of age, mate should stand him in good stead.