Yerba Mate Bars in Buenos Aires Argentina
Many foreigners to Buenos Aires may find themselves wanting to try yerba mate (the hot beverage which the Argentines drink daily), but are hesitant to invest in all of the necessary supplies in order to make it.
The solution? Mate bars.
Now as a (silly) foreigner myself, upon hearing this term I thought of a small café that specialized in nothing but yerba mate. I envisioned a place with comfortable, communal areas to sit and laugh, rather than traditional tables and chairs like in a restaurant or café.
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Well, reader, let me tell you that I was wrong. And I got a good laugh out of my Argentine friends upon describing my vision of a mate bar. But what this term really refers to is a restaurant or café that serves mate as part of the menu, and it’s often ordered by friends getting together after work or on the weekends for a snack and, of course, some mate. While mate bars can actually be found all over the city (if you know where to look…), you may have noticed that normal restaurants don’t offer mate as part of the menu. This is because yerba mate is a social experience as much as it is a beverage – so people will get together and have mate pretty much everywhere in the city (at school, at work, at home, in the parks, and even in the streets), but they won’t have it with a meal at a restaurant.
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So when you find a mate bar, here’s what you can expect: you’ll be given either a kettle or thermos full of hot water, some yerba, a mate cup, and a bombilla (a special straw for drinking mate). This is often served with some bread, toast, or pastries along with some jam, dulce de leche, or butter. Like I said, this is meant to be a snack.
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Where to Try Yerba Mate:
Here are some suggested restaurants and mate bars where you can sample some mate (and these are pretty good places for dinner as well):
Las Cabras (Fitz Roy 1795, Palermo)
Las Cholas (Arce 306, Las Cañitas) – they have outdoor tables where you can sit and enjoy your mate
La Cholita (Rodriguez Peña 1165, Recoleta) (this is the same owner and menu as Las Cholas, just a different location and no outdoor tables)
Cumaná (Rodriguez Peña 1163, Recoleta)
El Federal (San Martín 1015, Microcentro)
La Pulpería (Uriarte 1667, Palermo)
Raices – Cocina Casera con Historia (Crisólogo Larralde 3995, Nuñez)
And in more recent years, some of the mate companies have begun to work together with local cafés and bars, so it’s a lot easier to find a place to try some:
Amanda Mate Bar – This is a mate service offered in a variety of bars in and around Buenos Aires by the yerba mate company, Amanda. Here’s a list in Buenos Aires, some of these places have multiple locations as well:
– La Payuca (Av. Santa Fe 2587, Recoleta; Arenales 3443, Palermo)
– Bart Tango (Marcelo T. de Alvear 1326, Retiro)
– Punta Cuore (Av. Córdoba 1893, Recoleta; Av. Belgrano 1700, Monserrat)
– La Máquina de jugar (Sanchez de Bustamante 1649, Recoleta)
– República de Acá (Alvarez Thomas 601, Colegiales)
Zona Taragüi – There are too many to list, but this is another mate service offered by the yerba mate company, Taragüi.
The Cultural Significance of Mate in Argentina
While mate bars provide a convenient way for tourists and newcomers to experience this traditional drink, it’s essential to dive deeper into the cultural significance of mate to truly appreciate it.
A Symbol of Friendship and Community
Yerba mate is not just a beverage; it’s a ritual. When Argentines gather to drink mate, it’s an act of bonding, of sharing stories, and of spending quality time together. Passing the mate cup from one person to another signifies trust, friendship, and a sense of community. It’s akin to sharing a meal, but with a deeper cultural resonance.
Mate and Argentine Identity
For many Argentines, mate is an integral part of their identity. It’s a drink that has been passed down through generations, with each family having its own rituals and preferences regarding how it’s prepared and consumed. Drinking mate is a way for Argentines to connect with their roots, their family traditions, and their national identity.
The Art of Preparation
Preparing mate is an art in itself. The process of filling the gourd, arranging the yerba leaves, pouring the hot water at just the right temperature, and sipping it through the bombilla is a ritual that many Argentines take pride in. Each step is done with care and precision, reflecting the deep respect and love they have for this tradition.
Exploring Beyond the Mate Bars
While mate bars are a great starting point, to truly immerse yourself in the mate culture, consider:
- Visiting Local Markets: Explore local markets where you can find a range of mate cups, bombillas, and various brands of yerba mate. Each market stall will have its unique designs and flavors, giving you a broader perspective on the mate world.
- Joining Mate Circles: If you befriend locals, you might get an invitation to a mate circle. This is where the real magic happens. Sitting in a park, passing around the mate cup, and engaging in lively conversations is an experience that’s quintessentially Argentine.
- Taking a Mate Workshop: Beyond Vamos Spanish Academy, consider taking a specialized mate workshop where you can learn about the history, cultural significance, and preparation techniques of yerba mate. These workshops often delve deeper into the nuances of the drink and its role in Argentine society.
Getting to the end of our blog:
Mate is more than just a drink; it’s a window into the soul of Argentina. Whether you’re sipping it in a mate bar, a park, or a local’s living room, you’re partaking in a tradition that’s deeply ingrained in the Argentine psyche. So the next time you raise a mate cup to your lips, remember that you’re not just tasting a beverage, but experiencing a rich tapestry of history, culture, and community.
Last but not least: mate is meant to be a social drink, something to share, so don’t forget to bring your friends!