Gourd used for maté drinking
For many of us, when we’re in need of an energy boost we grab the nearest cup of coffee or energy drink we can find. However, for 21-year-old Mateo Askaripour, the need for coffee and Red Bulls became a thing of the past once he was introduced to maté. He had heard one of his brothers talk about it before but had never drank it. It wasn't until he traveled to Abu Dhabi and saw an American woman screening a documentary about maté that he became really intrigued. He thought that there must be something to it if it was being talked about world wide. With a name like Mateo, it seems as if he was destined to become an avid maté drinker. But the question still remains, why are people all over the world so fond of it? The answer to that can only be revealed after you’ve had your first sip.
I recently had my first maté experience and after learning more about it I began to get a better understanding for the international fondness of maté. Maté is a traditional South American drink that is made from steeping dried yerba maté leaves in hot water. Countries such as Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay even claim it as their national drink. I had never heard of it before I met Mateo but I was soon eager to know more. One of the first things you will learn is that maté is not just a drink. There's much more to it than that. It is a ritual and a way of bringing people together. Some would even go as far to say that drinking maté is a way of life. “To drink maté means to connect with others,” says Mateo. “I have chosen a lifestyle dedicated to connecting with others.”
But the maté lifestyle is nothing like your ordinary coffee addiction. In fact, maté is a much healthier option. It contains theobromine, which is found in chocolate, theophylline, which is in tea, and less caffeine than coffee. The combination of these three elements provides a great boost in energy. Dedicated maté drinkers usually drink maté every single day, the way many Americans drink coffee. However, unlike coffee, the energy you get from drinking maté is not the foreshadowing of an awful crash to come. Because this drink is natural, there are many benefits to it. Maté is said to relax the muscles, decrease stress, lower blood pressure, lower bad cholesterol, boost the immune system and most importantly, increase happiness.
Having my first maté experience
If you’re a bit of a skeptic like myself, you may be under the impression that maté is some sort of drug. I know that was my initial reaction. But it's not a drug at all. In fact, maté has actually been approved by the FDA as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). But the health benefits are not the only things that draw people to maté. Like I mentioned before, drinking maté is an old tradition and even a lifestyle. That's because in places like Argentina and Uruguay sharing a gourd of maté is a bonding session. This drink is something that cuts through all social classes. Rich and poor people alike drink maté. Drinkers often sit in a circle and share a drink over conversation.
Another important aspect is the preparation - this is just as important as the drink itself. Traditionally, the yerba maté leaves are placed in a hollowed calabash gourd. Cold water is poured in before the warm water in order to preserves all of the nutrients within the leaves. Drinkers sip the maté through a metal filtered straw called a bombilla. The fact that everyone is passing around the same gourd and drinking from the same straw makes the experience very intimate. The first time I shared a gourd with Mateo I was surprised that someone who had known me for no more than an hour would want to share a drink, and especially a straw, with me. A maté circle is great symbol of trust, because you wouldn’t share a drink with someone you didn’t trust. Katie Ports, who is a mutual friend of Mateo and I, explained that “Sharing the straw is part of the experience. You’re all drinking from the same cup, much like how you would drink wine during mass, and it symbolizes a connection between everyone.”
Katie & Mateo sharing a gourd
With all that it has to offer, it's hard to imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to try maté at least once. For Mateo Askaripour, getting new people to experience maté is somewhat of a mission. Mateo has come to call himself a “Yerba Maté Evangelist” because he is trying to convert more people into becoming avid maté drinkers, one gourd at a time. “I wish more people knew about maté. I’m glad my friend Mateo is trying his best to spread the word,” says Katie. And that is truly what he is doing. He is currently working on a new website to make spreading the word easier. But until then, Mateo says that he is always open to talking to people about maté through email, at events or even just during an impromptu maté circle.
For anyone interested in drinking or learning more about maté, feel free to check out Mateo’s website and YouTube channels: TheHardFluff and mateovermatter.
Mateo informing students about maté