Way back when, in 1998, a student on my year abroad in Argentina, I went round to a friend’s house. She cooked, we might have smoked a cigarette, and then she offered me some green leaves, served up in a cup. Hoping it was some new kind of illegal substance I could boast about back home, it made me a little dizzy although I wasn’t hooked from the first sip. And as she patiently explained the origins of this drink to me, I suddenly realised that yerba mate wasn’t some illicit herbal secret, and that all the Argentines were at it.
Fast-forward several years and after a spell living in yerba-growing province Misiones where I learned how to make mate and terere (check out this video but ignore the bad pronunciation, it’s said “tay-ray-ray”), I can now differentiate between Argentines and Uruguayans sipping the hot green stuff. The former do so cheerily, in groups, while shovelling sugar-coated Don Satur biscuits into their collective beaks, the latter are at it from dawn ‘til dusk, embracing a Thermos flask like a newborn. But taking the level of expertise up a notch or 10, allow me to introduce Valeria Trápaga, who became the world’s first dedicated yerba mate sommelier.
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