Trip Start Jan 08, 2009
Trip End Feb 09, 2009

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Flag of Uruguay  ,
Tuesday, January 20, 2009

i am fascinated by the mate culture. 
everywhere you go, you see all kinds of people from the chic chick to the hippie-schmack barefoot guy to the toothless parking monitor with their trusty thermos-gourd combo. what is it?
not everyone is cut out to serve mate. the procedure seems simple when you read it off the pack of mate but don't be fooled. the leaves should be poured into the gourd held angled so that it all piles into one side. 
some people then put their hand over the top and shake it a bit to "fluff" it. then you start with a little cold water on the leaves to get them to swell. [hot water directly on dry mate leaves burns them, you should know better] then you slowly add hot water to a small portion of the leaves that you've dug a hole into with the straw. the resulting liquid may be foamy. no worries; foam is good. as you and your pals slurp up the mate, the person serving moves the straw and leaves around from time to time to ensure freshness.
there are stands and stores all over that cater to every whim of the mate drinker. 
not only do you have a plethora of stylish gourds to choose from, be it the classic leather-bound or the more startling cow hoof setting [not so elegant, convenient stands-on-its-own feature], but there is also a vast variety of accessories.
thermos selection is crucial, as this will enhance or detract from your mate experience. too small a thermos and you run out of water in no time; too big and it becomes bulky to hoist around. sans handle may fit more easily into a bag but with a handle fits more securely in the nook of your arm. dilemmas, dilemmas. the screw-on top has got to be top notch to avoid leakage; you can opt for the click open and closed, the flip-back top with spout, or the screw open and closed.
[sidenote: almost any bar or restaurant will refill your thermos with hot water either for free or for a very small fee. there are even hot water vending machines.] the problem with using a gourd as a cup is that the gourd is pointed at the bottom. is it suave? oh yes. can you set it down on the table for a hot sec while you look for something in your purse? oh no. this is where the mate holder comes into play. there is a wire stand that you can separate the gourd from whenever your little heart desires, a gourd that is upholstered in leather with little built-in feet, or the aforementioned cow hoof-setting. some prefer the mate with conveniently built-in feet.
the bombilla [aka metal straw] is also pivotal. the bombilla, apart from giving you classy third degree burns on your lips, serves as a filter for all the little leaves that are in your gourd. a shitty bombilla will have you ruing the day you ever decided to buy it. you can choose a more or less angled straw, bronze or silver colored, with more or less filtering holes in the bottom.
the mate itself is a choice not for the fainthearted. in any given supermarket or even minimart you have several shelves of mate leaves. i really haven't a clue as to what the difference between all of them is but there must be something or else all of these companies wouldn't still be in business. 

so. the more paraphernalia you have, the more complicated it becomes to carry it all around. especially if you're planning to be out all day and therefore need a fresh mate leaf supply. hence, the mate carrying case. this is a rigid leather case with a strap that houses all your mate needs. it's also quite the fashion accessory and many are personalized with stickers.

you should always bring your mate with you wherever you go....on your way to work

on a stroll with your pal

visiting a museum

a field trip with the kids to a fort

on any overnight trip

after work

bottom line: mate - don't leave home without it.
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