In November 2018, the celebrated Spanish magazine “Tapas” decided to print its 75,000 copies of the monthly edition with a great cover: Argentinian rock star Andrés Calamaro with a mate in his hand, the traditional drink which is among the 50 top beverages round the world, according to CNN Travel.
This renowned Spanish magazine – which got the National Gastronomy Award – interviewed Andrés Calamaro on his visit to Spain to present his new album.
“Why does Andrés Calamaro love yerba so much?” is the headline of the piece, where the artist from Río de la Plata discloses the magic of Argentina’s national beverage.
Calamaro tells the secrets of making a great mate, insisting on the relevance of the person in charge of preparing it: “The difference between a good and a regular mate is practically like that between good and evil. It’s actually what happens with the quality of things. It’s up to the patience of the person doing them”.
“It needs to be prepared kindly, initially soaking the yerba with warm water. Upon pouring hot water, you could spit the first sip if it is too acidic. You should pour the water on the part of the bombilla – straw – trying not to soak the whole yerba. The perfect mate contains dry yerba on one side, and foam on the other, where you sip” As regards the temperature, he explains there are diverse theories. “I prefer it hot, at 99 °C.” Nevertheless, the Taragüi team advises a temperature between 70 °C and 80 °C.
The quality of the yerba is a determining element and Andrés is aware of that: “You need to have good-quality yerba as there is a difference with commercial brands. I consume Argentinian yerba, though I love mate from Uruguay”.
“Not only does mate keep you awake (…), it also regulates your digestion. It is antioxidant, maybe even diuretic. And much more. It is a miracle drink. It has more benefits than we know. It’s also a great companion. It contains iron, magnesium, vitamin B6 and caffeine. It’s complete”, says the musician.
“Bitter mate is the commonest, but it is also drunk with sugar and peppermint, chamomile, fennel, and so on. You can have it in bags, as with tea, or filtered like coffee”. In this case it’s “mate cocido” (boiled mate) and can be drunk with milk.
“I’m not certain where our passion for mate originates” – he admits in the interview – “Anyway, I didn’t impose mate on myself like an inclusive consumption. I’m always making my technique better and discovering new kinds of yerba. I began to have mate as an adult; when I was a child I wasn’t interested in it and I didn’t try to get used to it”.
The interviewer also mentions that Calamaro is usually seen holding a mate in his hand, and quotes a song from his new album, which translates to: Early morning / a bitter mate is always with me… “I drink a litre of mate in the morning, and can go on fasting for many hours if I take a second litre!”. Calamaro says “If I travel for over a few days, I take my own yerba, thermos and mate along”.
Fortunately for him, mate can now be found in a lot of the places he travels to, owing to the strong international trend. “A few communities learned how to drink mate and passed on the custom to other countries. The top yerba is exported… therefore, it is actually possible to find yerba practically everywhere”.
Not just Argentina’s celebrities know and delight in the virtues of yerba. Hillary Clinton, Madonna, Obama and elite footballers like Antoine Griezmann keep their energy and health with this traditional drink. The global expansion of this habit has opened the market round the world and it is very simple to buy yerba anywhere you are.