Mate, the Cup That Cheers On Tenerife Beaches

Mon, July 4th, 2011 - By Colin

Bodies are sizzling on Los Cristianos beach in Tenerife and people are trying anything to keep cool; ice cream, fizzy drinks and even melons and coconuts from the cheeky sales people. In the shimmering haze it even looks like people are pouring themselves a cuppa from a Thermos flask, but that must be a mirage?

Strangely enough these flasks are a bit of South American culture transported thousands of miles to the sands of Playa de Las Americas, El Medano and many other of the sun bathing magnets. The design is much more ornate than those tea holding life savers clutched on a cold wet British bank holiday, not a tartan pattern in sight. The cups the mysterious green liquid is poured into are varied but small and sturdy, some even have a little metal stand.

Mate (pronounced mar-tay) is the herb that is being infused here, made from yerba mate leaves that are dried, chopped and ground, waiting for the hot but not boiling water to be poured on them to release their herbal powers. The swirling green mass tastes bitter but not too strong and is very refreshing.

To get the most from the mate a stainless steel or nickel silver straw is used, called a bombilla it has a series of small holes in the base to draw the liquid through –  it’s all down to the little perforations. There are many benefits credited to mate such as mental clarity, weight loss, and improved circulation but most people just use it as a social drink.

The vitamins in mate are certainly good for you and it is on sale legally as a herbal mix and favoured by Argentinians, Brazilians and Bolivians. Tenerife has a large population of South Americans and has embraced many of their cultural icons. In its pure form this is no more addictive than the British obsession with a cup of char but some drinkers have been known to spice up the mix a little.

I’m not sure if you can read the leaves but if you could they would probably tell you of long lazy afternoons on the beach spent in the company of equally chilled friends.

Posted : Monday, July 4th, 2011 at 3:51 pm
Category : food and drink
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