Saturday, August 08, 2009

Buenos Aires: The List

With just over a week left to enjoy the Paris of the South, we've compiled a list of our 10 favourite things to do in Buenos Aires. I'll post one or two per day until we leave, and who knows, this week we may even add to the list - that's just how we roll.

Favourite Buenos Aires Activity #10: Drink Mate

The first time we tried mate was at an outing with our Spanish school. We first drank it amargo, which means bitter (or more gently, unsweetened), and neither of us liked it much. The cebador (mate server) then added some sugar and we found it more palatable, as do many foreigners.

When we changed to private Spanish instruction and met Sofía, she gave us more detailed instructions. She told us exactly what shape of mate, or gourd, to purchase. She explained how to properly prepare mate, and told us that sweetened, it isn't really mate. (We've since gleaned that how one prefers mate is a matter of taste, and that taste is often regional.) There are literally dozens of different brands and varieties of mate in the grocery store, and choosing can be difficult. Fortunately, not long after we started drinking mate I went to Norma's Argentine cooking class, and she introduced me to an organic yerba mate with herbs that was delicious.

Not long after our lesson with Sofía we bought our own mate and have been drinking mate regularly ever since. We don't quite have the dedication of a Uruguayan fellow we met in Brazil who carried his mate and Thermos with him in a handy leather tote, but I suspect we'll continue to drink mate as long as we have access to yerba.

In short, yerba mate is an acquired taste that we think is worth acquiring. And Buenos Aires, where the parks are full of mate drinkers no matter the season, and where you can order a mate service (mate, hot water, and a handful of sweet biscuits) for 5-10 pesos at most cafés, is the perfect place to start.

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