Mate, Pronounced like Mah-Tay

Later in the day Laura’s cousin, Irina, came over and joined us.

At this point Laura invited me to stay the night. I had cancelled my reservation at the hostel and went with the flow.

Together the four of us chatted like old friends, visited the aquarium, more of the waterfront (where I had been the day prior before meeting Laura), a church and the main street in the historic section.

Before sunset, Irina and Laura’s mom headed to a concert in a park and Laura and I headed to the beach for one of Uruguay’s most beloved traditions. Mate!

I learned about mate when the boyfriend and I visited Argentina last year and I was about to get reacquainted very quickly.

To say that mate is tea doesn’t do the popular beverage any justice.

Mate seems like a complicated concoction with the thermos tucked away in a leather case, a silver-rimmed cup made from a gourd and silver metal straw. And that’s just the paraphenalia needed to prepare mate. There is also a bag of yerba leaves, the brand is debatable depending on which mate-crazed country (Uruguay, Argentina and Uruguay) you are in.

First the mate goes in, packed tight in the cup, and one has to shake it a bit to get rid of the loose leaves. Then the hot water has to be poured at just the right angle so the leaves don’t float. The metal straw gets placed in just right.

And then it gets passed around. It’s just a chance to hang out and chat. There’s an etiquette. If you don’t want to drink more, you politely decline.

You know it’s time to add more water, when you hear the slurping noises when you are solely sipping air and leaves.

I was actually given the opportunity later on in my trip to prepare the mate. I drank leaves. You’re not supposed to. Let’s just say I will leave it to the experts to prepare.

Laura had packed plenty of snacks and we headed off to one of Colonia’s beautiful beaches. We shared mate on the beach and watched the sunset.

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